Lawyer denies seeing document making Burton main beneficiary

A lawyer told Supreme Court yesterday he had nothing to do with a document intended to make a life coach the main beneficiary of a wealthy senior’s will.

Alan Dunch, a lawyer for MJM, said he had not seen the document until after Katherine Trimingham’s death and if he had, he would have been extremely suspicious.

Mr Dunch said: “This is so entirely inconsistent with anything she had ever said to me before and I would have been deeply suspicious about what was going on.”

He said if he had seen the document before Ms Trimingham’s death, he would have gone to see her to confirm if it was genuine.

Mr Dunch said: “I would also ask her if she was prepared to be medically examined to make sure she was of sound mind, because this document didn’t reflect the Katherine Trimingham of sound mind that I knew.”

He added: “The whole thing stinks.”

Melissa Burton, 53, denies stealing $56,284 from Ms Trimingham, who died, aged 72, in 2016.

The New Yorker has also denied a charge of financial exploitation of the senior.

The jury heard on Wednesday that Ms Trimingham died on December 1, 2016 after more than a month in hospital.

Neil Halliday, the vice-president of Hamilton-based Winchester Global Trust, which held power of attorney over Ms Trimingham’s estate, later found a series of transactions after she was admitted to hospital.

Ms Burton later sent him a “memorandum of wishes”, claimed to have been written on the instructions of Mr Dunch, and dated March 9, 2016.

The document called for Ms Burton to be given Ms Trimingham’s financial power of attorney and her certificate of deposit account at Clarien Bank on her death.

The memorandum added that the fund for Ms Trimingham’s dog should be increased from $50,000 to $100,000 and any cash that remained after the dog’s death should go to its carer — Ms Burton.

Mr Dunch said he first saw the document when Mr Halliday sent it to him in January 2017 and he was concerned by the contents.

He told the court the document would, if valid, give almost the entirety of Ms Trimingham’s estate to Ms Burton. Mr Dunch said: “To put this in context for you, the biggest asset of Katherine’s estate was the certificate of deposit account at Clarien Bank.

“She had no legal right to the assets of the trusts once she departed life.

Giving Ms Burton the certificate of deposit account in effect gave her the bulk of her estate.

“With $100,000 for the care of her dog, which was in Melissa’s possession, that would have, in effect, meant there was nothing left.”

Mr Dunch added the date of the document raised questions.

He told the court he had been in touch with Ms Trimingham on March 7, two days before the document was supposedly written.

Mr Dunch said the only change she mentioned to her will at that time was the addition of a grandchild.

He added that Ms Trimingham also mentioned that she was to undergo dental surgery the next day.

He said: “This is a lady, on the evidence I had before me, who just went through surgery, was under the influence of drugs and had a caretaker who said she would do her best to round up her wishes.”

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