NEWS
10/03/2011 06:13 EDT | Updated 12/03/2011 05:12 EST

Boxer Arturo Gatti had the only signed copy of a missing will, court hears

MONTREAL - A civil dispute over the estate of boxer Arturo Gatti has heard that he had the only signed copy of a 2007 will that left his fortune to his family — a document that has not been found.

What happened to that document remains a mystery and is central to a Quebec legal battle over Gatti's $3.4 million fortune, pitting his wife Amanda Rodrigues against his mother and younger brother.

The Gatti family claims that the 2007 will — one that leaves everything to his family — is the valid will. But they can't find the signed copy.

They say the boxer was later forced to sign a will that leaves everything to Rodrigues. The document was signed just weeks before his death at a Brazilian resort in July 2009.

On Monday, a New Jersey lawyer, his associate, an office manager and Gatti's financial advisor all testified that the late boxer signed a will in April 2007, days before getting engaged to Rodrigues.

Lawyer Gilbert Levine told Quebec Superior Court that Gatti signed the document as well as a trust document during a meeting at Levine's office on April 26, 2007.

"Mr. Gatti would have taken the original will with him and I advise clients to put it in a fire-proof place," Levine testified.

That was the last time that will was seen. It isn't clear what happened to it.

Levine said it isn't policy for a lawyer or notary to keep a signed copy of a will and he did not file one with a New Jersey will registry.

The civil trial being presided over by Justice Claudine Roy is entering its final week of hearing witnesses.

The case has been overshadowed by things happening outside the Montreal courtroom: a wrongful-death suit launched in New Jersey; a privately financed report declaring Gatti's death a homicide, and a commitment from Brazilian authorities to take a second look at the case.

The boxer's family does not accept the conclusion of Brazilian authorities that he committed suicide.

But several documentaries aired last month painted Gatti as suicidal and depressed for years leading up to his death.

The Gatti family has said their preference is that the fortune be split equally between Gatti's child with Rodrigues and his child from a previous relationship.

The two sides appeared close to an agreement on a settlement, but it never materialized.

Final arguments in the civil case are scheduled for mid-October.