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Growing Stronger Podcast Ep #25 and #26: The Secret Lover

Catherine Henry Lawyers
Catherine Henry Lawyers

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Growing Stronger Podcast Ep 25 and 26 The Secret Lover

In episodes 25 and 26 of our podcast, Growing Stronger, Tanya Chapman discusses an estate case where a person known to the deceased claims they had a secret 14 year romantic and sexual relationship.

Was there a secret love affair or was the whole story an elaborate ruse for the purpose of defrauding the estate?

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To continue the discussion join our Growing Stronger Podcast Group on Facebook. Engage in conversation with other listeners and our host, Tanya Chapman, on the cases we have covered, plus more.

Episode #25, Part 1 – we outline the evidence, the versions and arguments of each side and the evidence of the witnesses.

Episode #26, Part 2 – we discuss the findings of the Court, the orders made and what we can learn from this case.

Episode #30, UPDATE – an update on the case and the legal proceedings which are still ongoing, as well as some additional information.

Case: Yesilhat v Calokerinos [2015] NSWSC 1028; Calokerinos, Executor of the Estate of the late George Sclavos v Yesilhat [2017] NSWSC 666 (9 June 2017); Calokerinos, Executor of the Estate of the late George Sclavos v Yesilhat (No 2) [2019] NSWSC 584 (22 May 2019); Calokerinos, Executor of the Estate of the late George Sclavos v Yesilhat (No 3) [2019] NSWSC 1752 (13 December 2019); Yesilhat v Calokerinos [2021] NSWCA 110 (28 May 2021)

Note

  1. This is a brief summary of the topic and the case law covered in the episode and is not a full transcript of the recording
  2. The case discussed in the episode is a NSW case, so what we’re discussing will be based on the law in NSW and is not intended to be taken to be applied Australia-wide.
  3. While this podcast is aimed to be informative, it is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice. For any matter we discuss, we summarise, skip over parts that may be too technical and only generalise. You should still see a solicitor for complete advice that relates directly to your particular situation.

SUMMARY

This complex case spanned many court hearings and many years, accruing an astonishing amount in legal fees.

At the heart of it was George Sclavos, a pharmacist who owned a pharmacy in Leppington and who was 65 when he died in August 2013.

And we have Okan Yesilhat. A former police officer, now co-owner of a tyre business. He was 30 years younger than George and after George’s death, claimed that for 14 years they had been having a secret romantic and sexual relationship.

This secret relationship was at the basis of Okan’s legal claims:

  • his claim for family provision from George’s extensive estate, worth $6m at his death,
  • his claim that extensive funds he had received from George were gifts and not loans,
  • his claim that George’s informal will had been fabricated.

Did George and Okan have a secret 14-year relationship? Or was the whole thing a fantasy, an elaborate story and elaborate deception intended to fleece the estate?

GEORGE SCLAVOS

George Sclavos died on 13 August 2013 at the age of 65 years. He died of an apparent heart attack, which was not unexpected because he didn’t live the healthiest lifestyle. He smoked, he lived off mainly fried take-away food, and he didn’t exercise.

George had never been married and never had children. He had had several relationships with women, but they ended long before his death.

Both of George’s parents had died and his only sibling, a brother, had died in March 1980.

His nearest relatives were his two nieces Cleopatra Sclavos Calokerinos and Anna Sclavos-Lahana.

George was a pharmacist, and he owned his own pharmacy in Leppington, Sydney since the late 1980s.

After George’s death, a family friend found a document in the bible George kept beside his bed. The two-page document looked to be an informal will. It was signed and dated by George. The will appointed Cleopatra to be his executor and left his estate equally between his two nieces.

At the time of his death, George’s estate was worth about $6m.

OKAN YESILHAT

Mr Okan Yesilhat was born in 1982 and is of Turkish descent. He was married in his early 20s but said that he realised at an early age that his sexual orientation was towards men. He said that same-sex attractions were repressed by his family and cultural background.

Okan claimed that in 1999 when he was about 17 years old, he met George, who was then was 51 years old. They soon became friends and for the first two years would meet at the pharmacy 3 or 4 days a week for visits from 3 to 5 hours a time. By 2001, they had started a personal and sexual relationship. They kept the relationship secret, and it was conducted entirely in the pharmacy dispensary.

After George’s death, Okan claimed that he and George had been in a secret same-sex relationship for 14 years. Okan said that because of both his and George’s family and cultural backgrounds, they had to keep the relationship secret.

Okan started legal proceedings against the estate making several claims:

  1. Okan claimed that George had made a will leaving Okan part or all of his estate. Okan argued that Cleopatra or someone associated with her had destroyed that will and had fraudulently created the October 2012 informal will that left the estate to the nieces.
  2. That without a valid will, George had died intestate. And that as George’s long-standing de facto partner he was now entitled to the whole of George’s estate – all $6m – on intestacy.
  3. Failing that, Okan made an application for provision from the estate on the basis that he was an eligible person and that adequate provision had not been made for him. Okan said that there were 3 categories of eligibility he met.
    • De facto partner,
    • dependent,
    • close personal relationship.

Cleopatra was the executor of the informal will and on behalf of the estate, she contested Okan’s claims. She denied that George and Okan ever had a same-sex or close personal relationship. Instead, she said that they were, at most, friends and had a commercial relationship.

The key question the Court needed to determine was whether George and Okan had had a secret love affair or was the whole story an elaborate ruse for the purpose of defrauding the estate?

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