95-year-old Betty Harris leaves her entire $12.5m (N2bn) estate to next-door neighbour as a 'thank you gift'

It is often said that a small act of daily kindness goes a long way. But one lucky Australian could not have expected that her good deeds would land her a multi-million dollar cheque.

The next-door neighbour, who helped an elderly widow with her daily chores, was left with a ‘thank you’ gift of
$12.5 million.

Sydney widow Betty Harris, who died at the age of 95, left her entire estate, worth $12.5 million (N2billion) to her neighbour Beatrice Gray.

Mrs Gray showed kindness to Mrs Harris in her later years in the wealthy harbourside suburb of Point Piper, buying her milk and bread and taking out her rubbish.

Mrs Gray told Sydney’s Daily Telegraph that she was ‘extremely grateful to Betty Harris,’ but declined to comment further.

But Mrs Harris, widow of Keith Harris, a former horse breeder, spoke out strongly before her death against her relatives saying she wanted to leave her money to Mrs Gray and her husband because they were not expecting it and she trusted them.

‘The Grays would be surprised, while my family are waiting for me to die,’ she said. ‘I am determined that my relatives, after what they have put me through, will not get one cent.’

After the widow’s death a bitter legal battle erupted with Mrs Harris’ niece challenging the gift in the New South Wales Supreme Court.

The niece, Caralie Hart, claimed that a will leaving the estate to Mrs Gray, was invalid because Mrs Harris was deluded at the time.

During one court hearing it was revealed that Mrs Harris had no children and was largely estranged from her nieces and nephews. She told hospital staff in 2005 that she had not spoken to them for 13 years.

Shortly after changing her will in favour of Mrs Gray, Mrs Harris complained that her niece and nephews ‘all want their bit of money.’

The court was told that she complained her nephews were ‘a pretty pathetic lot’ and called another niece, Anne Nickolls , a bitch.

Justice Richard White, ruling today that Mrs Gray - a wealthy Sydney University academic and barrister - was entitled to the estate, said there was no doubt that Mrs Harris had ‘some degree of cognitive impairment’ but she was still capable of signing a will.

An earlier will, written in 1996, had left the entire estate to niece Mrs Hart, but then Mrs Harris revoked it after learning Mrs Hart wanted to put her in a nursing home and appoint a legal guardian to take control of her finances.