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Friday, September 23, 2011

Sophie Mirabella's Will Dispute

Sophie Mirabella

When Sophie Panopoulos met Colin Howard, she was a bright 26 year old with a promising legal career ahead of her and he was a 66 year old brilliant constitutional law expert. But the 40 year age different didn't seem to matter and they became lovers in 1995.

When Dr Howard died from Alzheimer's disease this month at the age of 83, he left behind a mess for his adult children and for a man with an abundant knowledge of the law, he failed to ensure that his children were adequately catered for in his will. Instead, he chose to name Sophie Mirabella as the main beneficiary and executor of his estate. Now his children, Lesley and Mervyn Howard will mount a challenge in the Victorian Supreme Court to contest his will.

It is alleged that she received gifts from him valued at well over $100,000 to help her election to Federal Parliament in 2001 and another substantial sum to buy her Wangaratta farmhouse in 2007. If she is the sole beneficiary, she will inherit his home in Melbourne worth $1 million.

In 2006, after their affair ended, Sophie married Greg Mirabella, a former army reserve officer, and they now have two daughters.

But this is where this case gets bizarre - Mervyn and Lesley Howard insist they are not after their father's money because he made it clear to them that they would not get any. One wonders what his children did to deserve this. They acknowledge that their father's feelings for Mirabella never wavered, before or after her marriage, they just want to know if she did the right thing by their father.

Professor Howard was a man highly regarded by the Victorian Bar Association who put together an obituary outlining his achievements in law and academia. Originally born in England, he came to Australia at the age of 30 and from 1965 he was a law professor at the University of Melbourne and Dean from 1978 to 1983. He took silk while with Ms Mirabella and served as general counsel to the Victorian Government Solicitor.

A socially awkward man, Professor Howard spent the latter part of his life battling Alzheimer's Disease in an aged-care facility.