It is worth noting what was said in a judgment from a recent case before the Supreme Court of New South Wales about adult children contesting their mother’s will for more. The Court said the following:
“…a testator is entitled to be unequal in the treatment of her children. Fairness and equality are not
required by the law. Within the limits of the law, testators may dispose of their estates as they see fit. Adult children have no automatic right to share in the estate of a parent. Nor do they have an automatic right to equality between them. That may be the system in European countries, including possibly in the Balkans, but it is not the law in Australia. As I have observed on several occasions, subject to the family provision sections of the Succession Act, freedom of testamentary disposition remains an integral part of our law:….”
And following on he added:
“Related to that point is a principle, …..that the courts naturally respect and give deference to the considered judgments of apparently rational and sensible testators.”1
The Hon. Justice Pembroke, Judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales.
Contemplating marriage and making a will
Normally under Australian succession law marriage cancels a will (that is revokes the will) – unless the will was made in contemplation of marriage. In some states and the ACT testamentary arrangements can be made in contemplation of entering into a registered relationship or partnership. Continue reading
Contesting a will – time limits on making an application
Time limits apply under family provision law within which to contest or challenge a will. If this time has passed it is possible to apply to the Court for an extension, but whether it is granted will depend on the circumstances. In this case the application was unsuccessful, being some years out of time. Continue reading
“Contrary intention” in succession law and will-making
Many provisions in state and territory legislation on succession and wills allow for a willmaker to express a contrary intention in their will to override the statutory rule. Where a provision of succession legislation contains these words, it means that the statutory rule can be displaced, that is not apply in the administration of their estate, if a willmaker has expressed a different intention on the matter in their will as to what they want to have happen. Continue reading
Meaning of words in a will – resolving differences in a farmland context
The meaning of words and phrases used by a will-maker when leaving a specific gift may adequately express their intentions, at least to them at the time. However sometimes matters connected with the gift may arise down the track during administration of the estate, raising questions of interpretation. Continue reading
Leaving an unsigned will – second thoughts or intended last words?
Sometimes an unsigned will is left in situations where the willmaker, in consultation with lawyers, has been in the process of making a new will, but died before the requirements to make a valid legal document were completed. Leaving such … Continue reading
Meaning of stepchild when contesting a will
A stepchild’s eligibility under the statutory rules for seeking provision from a step-parent’s deceased estate can be difficult.
In a Victorian case1 the executor of a deceased estate applied to the Supreme Court to have a claim for family provision dismissed.
The claim was brought by the adult daughter of the deceased’s former domestic partner, who had died some years before. She had been left out of his will, despite assurances and promises to the contrary. The deceased had left everything to his new domestic partner. Continue reading
Stepchild contesting a step-parent’s will – Queensland
In a Queensland case a stepchild was left out of the will of a step-parent. He subsequently sought provision from his step-mother’s estate. She had no natural children of her own. Her husband, the applicant’s father, had pre-deceased her. The applicant was her only step-child. In another situation a claim was brought by seven step-children for adequate provision out of their deceased stepmother’s estate. Continue reading
Elder Abuse World Awareness Day – June 15
Elder abuse can take different forms. It can range across financial, psychological, physical and emotional neglect causing harm and distress to the older person. It may be intentional or not. Critical issues having potential to generate abuse of older ones involve legal capacity, and undue influence in entering into guarantees for family members and others, and reverse mortgages. Carers misusing their influence is another area. Financial abuse can surface in various ways, one in particular is placing pressure on an older person to make or change their will. Continue reading
Severing a joint tenancy unilaterally
Many couples own their home together as joint tenants under a joint tenancy. Under a joint tenancy an important legal consequence to remember with this type of property co-ownership is the legal right of survivorship. The right of survivorship means that … Continue reading
Estranged child left out of a will – claiming family provision
An estranged daughter, one of two sisters and the only children of their deceased mother, were engaged in legal proceedings in a contest over their mother’s deceased estate.1 In The Supreme Court of New South Wales, it was said that … Continue reading
When the deceased’s will seems lost or missing – where to enquire?
Missing wills or a lost will seem to be more common than one would think. Some people store important personal documents in unusual places without informing their executor where. Here are some suggestions on next steps after a thorough search has not been successful. Continue reading
Step-grandchildren described as “descendants” and “children”- can they inherit?
If the words “descendants” and “children” are being used to describe beneficiaries in a will, is it intended by that any step-grandchildren are included? Continue reading
When no will is left
When no will is left by a deceased person they are said to have died intestate. Dying intestate means no will is left setting out what is to be done with the deceased’s property. Who is entitled to take their estate? Continue reading
Personal items in a deceased estate
Personal things can have great sentimental value, and depending what they are, maybe commercial value. Continue reading
Probate litigation costs
Increasingly, it is not always automatic that costs of challenging a will for more provision will be paid out of the deceased’s estate. Courts may take into account the conduct of the litigants towards each other in regard to their efforts in resolving their differences before hearing. Continue reading
Personal possessions – interpreting their meaning and entitlements
Leaving gifts of personal possessions seems easy to do – until someone else has to interpret what was meant in the words used in the will. Continue reading