Your preferred office location:
  1. Home
  2. /
  3. HHG Articles
  4. /
  5. Court of appeal reduces Olivia Mead’s award by $19 million, holding that she is entitled to “adequate provision for her proper maintenance and support, but no more” from billionaire father’s estate.
23 Nov 2017

When WA billionaire Michael Wright passed away in 2012, his ‘secret daughter’, Olivia Mead, was left a $3 million trust under his will. Subject to stringent conditions and the discretion of the trustee, Olivia, now 21, would receive the capital on her 30th birthday. No doubt, more money than many would see in a lifetime.

Ms Mead made headlines when she made an application to the Supreme Court seeking to increase her share of the sizeable estate of her father, and remove the conditions upon her inheritance. The case received particular media attention due to the magnitude of the late Mr Wright’s wealth – he was a mining heir and the owner of acclaimed Margaret River winery Voyager Estate – and because Ms Mead’s claim included statements that she might require a $250,000 guitar, a $1.6 million grand piano, and Pilates lessons until the age of 97.

While Ms Mead was successful in the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal has now drastically reduced the size of the award she was given. While open to further appeal, the recent decision sheds further light on the discretion the Court can exercise when deciding what provision is ‘adequate’.

Master Sanderson’s 2015 Decision

In 2015, Master Sanderson of the Supreme Court of WA found that Ms Mead hadn’t been left adequate provision from her late father’s estate. He ordered that she receive an immediate payment of $25 million from the residuary of the estate, and in turn give up her rights to the $3 million trust established under Mr Wright’s will.

Master Sanderson’s decision was based on the following findings:

  1. the testamentary trust did not adequately provide for Ms Mead, because distribution from the trust was subject to such strict conditions that she could receive ‘nothing’. For example, if Ms Mead became an alcoholic or drug addict, was suspected of having any involvement with illegal drugs, was convicted of a felony or became a member or even got involved with a ‘non-traditional’ faith, then she would not be entitled to receive anything from the trust;
  2. importantly, the size of the Wright estate was so substantial that $25 million was no more than a ‘rounding error’; and consequently,
  3. Mr Wright’s two eldest daughters would share the vast majority of the balance of the estate, an estimated $400 million each.

Given the size of the award, it was not unexpected that Master Sanderson’s decision was appealed to the WA Court of Appeal by the Executor of the will (Mr Wright’s solicitor) and the other beneficiaries of the Wright estate.

Court of Appeal 2017 Decision

In May 2015, Justice Newnes ordered that Ms Mead be paid $3 million pending the appeal of Master Sanderson’s decision.

In summary, the core grounds of appeal were as follows:

  1. that the Master incorrectly interpreted the terms of the will and therefore the nature of the trust established for Ms Mead;
  2. that the Master erred in finding that there had been adequate provision; and
  3. the Master erroneously exercised his discretion, including as to the quantum of the award, when making orders to alter the terms of the will.

On 22 November 2017, the Court of Appeal, held unanimously that Master Sanderson had erroneously exercised his discretion in awarding $25 million to Ms Mead.

The Court of Appeal found that Master Sanderson was incorrect to consider his discretion was ‘unfettered’ due to the ’colossal’ size of the estate, allowing him to make an award in excess of what would otherwise be ‘adequate’ provision for Ms Mead.

Instead the Court of Appeal held that the Court should do no more than is required to ensure that Ms Mead received adequate provision from the estate for her proper maintenance.

Importantly in this case, both the Master and the Court of Appeal found that Ms Mead had no special needs.

The Court of Appeal substituted the Master’s orders by decreasing the $25 million to $6.14 million, and requiring that the additional $3.14 million Ms Mead was yet to receive was to be held by an independent trustee until she turned 30. In the course of coming to this conclusion, the Court of Appeal considered what such a figure might mean in practical terms. For example, it would allow for the purchase of a property of about $1.5 million, considered to be ‘adequate and proper’ for her, with sufficient left over to provide Ms Mead with an annual income of around $100,000 from the trust.

What does this decision mean?

The take away points from this decision are as follows:

  1. When exercising its discretion to make an award of further provision from an estate, the discretion of the Court is not ‘unfettered’, and the Court must only make orders that are sufficient to adequately provide for the applicant.
  2. Testamentary trust wills should be carefully drafted to ensure that there is ‘certainty’ that the beneficiary will receive the benefit of the trust property and to avoid unnecessary claims upon the estate. Exotic or unusual conditions should only be considered with extreme caution and specialist legal advice. A beneficiary who receives a trust subject to very onerous or impossibly strict conditions is more likely to have a basis for seeking they receive their inheritance free from those conditions, even where the amount of the inheritance itself is otherwise adequate for that beneficiary.

Moving Forward

Whilst not determinative of future cases, noting that each case will be judged on its own circumstances and merits, this decision suggests that it will be difficult for future adult applicants of average health and capability, without special needs, to argue for provision in excess of $6.2 million, and any that award in excess of this amount could be set aside on appeal.

Given the amount at stake and the substantial reduction in the award, it would be unsurprising for Ms Mead to seek leave to appeal the decision to the High Court of Australia – whether or not this is granted is another matter.

It is not clear upon what basis special leave would be granted, given the High Court’s previous decisions in this area and the fact that the relevant legal principles are well settled. This appeal decision was more about application of the legal principles, rather than the principles themselves.

*This is general information only, and does not constitute specific legal advice. Please consult one of our experienced Legal Team for specific advice relevant to your situation.

Supporting Western Australians for more than 100 years

"Always fast and thorough service. Thank you"

Sitka Pil

"My circumstances at the time I made contact with HHG were dire following my argument being rejected by two no win no fee firms. Following my initial meeting with HHG's employment law team I was left feeling extremely positive by the response and concern shown by HHG in regards to their support of my argument along with their preparedness to pursue an outcome on my behalf.

I accept the fact that nobody really wins in these cases (mental health/ workplace) however the end result was what would be considered most favourable and far in excess of what would have been achieved had I not sought the advice from HHG.

I have no hesitation in recommending HHG to anyone caught up in the messy circumstances I found myself in at the time.

Great advice and five-star commitment to their client!!"

Nathan Lynch

"Thank you for such great assistance with the transaction of Flying Domestics on behalf of Lorna Good. It has been such a pleasure to work with the HHG Legal Group and I look forward to working with you in the future."

Jim Goodwin

"Simon Creek and his team were at all times empathic, professional and confident.  My matter needed to be addressed within a pressing time frame, and their availability at short notice and contact after hours was much appreciated.  It caused me considerable stress, but having such a thoroughly reliable and competent team to call on helped me to feel in control. Although I hope not to need their services again in future, I would be confident in doing so!"

Dr Lana Bell

"A good outcome is what we can expect.  A great outcome is a sign of a company which does the very best for their clients. A very big thank you to Daniel Morris for showing empathy towards my small and much needed legal action.

To HHG Legal Group, thank you for a great outcome.  I would recommend your company to anyone seeking legal services."

Jan Atkinson

"Your support this morning was amazingly kind, not to mention your totally reassuring competence, knowledge and wisdom that you used on my behalf.  It was extremely reassuring to have your knowledgeable support, and I particularly appreciated your real and obvious kindness to me. It means so much at a very difficult time. I'm so grateful to you."

Family Law Client

"Janene was very professional and we established a good rapport quickly. The subject of death and wills can be quite confronting to deal with, however, Janene's approach was soft and accommodating."

Lynette Livesey

"A big thank you to HHG for their professional service, continued support, and wide range of legal knowledge. Our clients have given us nothing but kind words regarding HHG Legal Group and so we have no hesitation in referring and recommending Simon Creek and HHG Legal Group for their outstanding services and legal expertise."

Nigel Plowman, Director at Mckinley Plowman & Associates

"Simon is a friendly and practical legal advisor. I have received great feedback from the clients I have referred to him and his team at HHG Legal Group."

Richard Beal, Director at BDO

"Over the last few years, I have been impressed by Simon’s legal ability, management skills, entrepreneurial spirit, personal integrity and people skills. He appears to be that rare breed of lawyer – both knowledgeable and commercial."

Michael Malone, Founder of iiNet

"Our family has been a client of HHG Legal Group over many years.  Business has included drawing up of wills for three generations and preparing of probate for my father in law. I would have no hesitation in recommending HHG Legal Group to anyone requiring such services."

Bernice Climie

"You should be congratulated for the manner in which your staff address clients and we found our dealings with your company, once again a very pleasant experience and we would like to truly thank you for your efforts."

Steve Harvey and Jane Powell

"HHG Legal were absolutely fantastic. Extremely responsive and brought calm to our chaotic family situation through their knowledge and caring attitude. Extremely professional from our very first contact with them and they expertly guided our family though the required legal process over almost a 12 month period."

Amanda Williamson

"Fantastic team! They really care about their client. Tim Colcutt is a 'go that extra mile' guy who gives his client his all. I can't recommend HHG and Tim enough."

Kerry Samson

"I had a fantastic lawyer in Matthew Lilly. He helped me out a great deal with good, sound advice in a friendly, professional manner. First class, thanks Matthew"

Graeme Hammond

"Marine Plant Systems has been working with HHG Legal Group for a few years now and they continually provide first-class service. Their professional advice has been invaluable to our company."

Carolin Grimm - Marine Plant Systems

"We were kept up to date at all times. Pricing was always updated over the time period so we remained "in budget". Personal access to someone whenever I had questions. All in all a great experience without too much fuss."

Rosslyn Tasker - COO Altusq Pty Ltd

"Good service you can count on."

Miles Lee

"HHG Legal Group has provided outstanding support as I have taken the journey of buying a business, their professionalism is beyond reproach. Their assistance throughout the Due Diligence process has been invaluable, I would fully recommend them."

Mark Armitage

"Very friendly and efficient service - what a pleasure working with Matthew."

Jacques Taylor

"I highly recommend Daniel from HHG Lawyer in Mandurah. When dealing with a complicated legal property matter recently I was extremely impressed by Daniel's honesty and integrity and the legal advice I received. I am very happy with the service from HHG Legal."

Tony Walker

"Lisa, thank you so much for representing me in court, honestly, I would not have had the outcome I got without you. Once again, Thank you so much."


"Matthew Lilly was excellent in processing our project. He achieved the excellent result that we required on our project.

We would give Matthew a 5 star rating.

We will definitely commission Matthew for any further projects if we have the need."


"I have had the pleasure of being represented by Ms Lisa Riley. Lisa helped me in December 2020 when I was charged. Lisa was extremely supportive, reassuring, and preserved with her investigation of the laws and was able to save me from a terrible outcome. Another incident occurred in August 2021 in which I sought Lisa’s help. Lisa preserved and was very patient with me. This only got resolved this year. When she advised me that she was leaving her old firm, I insisted that she remain my lawyer, as I had the utmost faith in her. Hence I moved over to HHG. Lisa took no shortcuts in my defence and continued to preserve for the toxicology report that ultimately saved me. She kept me up-to-date with the progress and provided support. Having someone as understanding as Lisa was a huge gift, to me and my family. You have gained a huge asset in Lisa joining your firm.

Thank you, Lisa, forever grateful for your work, and if ever needed, I will be sure to refer to you"


"We can highly recommend HHG Legal Group and particularly Mr Blair Campbell (Special Counsel / Dispute Resolution)

Blair worked with us as we navigated a very difficult third party dispute.

Blair’s expertise, wisdom, and the way he guided us in a very measured and calm manner gave us great encouragement and comfort. Blair helped us to focus on what we needed to and to trust the process.

Blair was always responsive to us, he always got back to us very promptly to answer our questions and to help us to step through some really hard days.

We are very grateful for Blair’s expertise and wisdom along with his empathy and care, this truly made the difference for us."

Wayne and Janice Belcher

Preferred office location:

Please select your nearest office location so we can show you the most relevant information.