Unique university bequest gives agriculture department the funds to grow

Date: Oct 26, 2011

A unique piece of estate planning has delivered an educational facility with the funds it needs to grow - and the source is certainly surprising.

The agricultural faculty at the University of Sydney was the recipient of a sizable bequest - with the academics being given a cheque for $8.6 million from their previously unknown benefactor Nancy Roma Paech.

Paech died in 1987, leaving her entire estate to the university save for a single vase - she ordered that her assets be managed until the death of her husband Don Paech, at which point the funds were to go to the educational institution.

Speaking on the charitable act, dean of the Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources Professor Mark Adams said the unique gift would be used to support research into sustainable land management practices.

Adams said: "In particular it will be supporting research into the types of low-impact, broad-acre agriculture that are the future of sustainable land management for a large proportion of the Australian continent.

"This is an extremely generous and far-sighted gift which will have a transformational impact on the research to be conducted at our new Centre for Carbon, Water and Food."

According to the estate's trustees Cedric and Mary Holland, the bequest was a little unusual in that they could not find any connection between Paech and the university and only a tenuous link between the deceased and any agricultural activity - with the will stating that the funds be used in "financing research in matters pertaining to agricultural science".

Cedric Holland - who was a friend of Nancy Paech's husband - said: "A cousin told me she was a lady of strong views. It seems she wasn't a fan of additives or tampering with food.

"She is a blank sheet for us to fill in."

In this case the estate can be put to the best possible use only through the diligence and hard work of the trustees who researched the life and times on Nancy Paech to find out more on her views.

From there they were able to provide instructions to the recipients of the bequest and help guide them in the ideals and wants of their benefactor.

However this may not always be the case - loose wording can easily be misinterpreted and the instructions provided through a valid will may not provide loved ones with enough details to make informed decisions.