Time limits under succession law on family provision limit when you can contest a will. Most states and territories family provision legislation provide for some time limit, often the period is six months but it can vary.
But what if the time period has passed? Most legislation provides the Court with a discretion to extend the time within which to make an application, but it is not automatic and the Court’s permission to file must be sought first. Legal assistance is essential.
Contrary intention are words used in Australian succession legislation on wills and the administration of deceased estates. Some examples are given below of the range of matters where the law allows for a willmaker to express a contrary intention in their will to 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. A contrary intention may be expressed in a will or appear in a will.
Inheritance in domestic relationships and stepchildren
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.
When the original will of a deceased person can’t be found, the task of finalising their affairs and administering their estate becomes more complicated, time-consuming and costly. It is therefore worthwhile to undertake methodical searches of the deceased’s residence, thoroughly searching high and low for a will or testamentary document, including the garage, shed and the like. But what else can be done? Some suggestions follow as to where enquiries might be made. More →
Personal items can have important sentimental value. They may be family heirlooms passed down to keep within the family, with unique stories to tell. Personal items may have little commercial value, or maybe of significant monetary worth in the case of jewellery, antiques, artworks and the like.
What might “personal items” mean in succession law? What happens if you don’t leave any instructions as to who takes your personal things and you die intestate? Who is entitled under the law to take your personal items then? More →
Personal possessions, personal items, belongings or effects and similar expressions are often used by willmakers to leave instructions on what they want done with such things.
The executor’s role is to administer the estate of a deceased person in accordance with the terms of their will. The case law shows that occasionally a term causes uncertainty for an executor as to what the willmaker intended in their choice of words or expressions. What did they mean? What did they want to have happen, and how may their executor or personal representative resolve this dilemma with confidence that they are doing the right thing?
Executors seeking advice
If faced with a difficult dilemma as to what to do, executors can apply to the Supreme Court for an opinion, advice or direction on any question respecting the management or administration of trust property, under s 63 of the Trustee Act 1925 (NSW).
Sometimes it is not until after a will-maker dies, when their executor is applying for a grant of probate, or seeking to administer the estate, that some kind of administrative mistake is discovered in the will. For example words used in the will, or some mis-description, operate to prevent the will-maker’s intentions from being put into effect. Resolving the problem usually requires making an application to the Court. This causes expense and delay.
It is unfortunate that such genuine clerical mistakes or ambiguities are not picked up during will-making. Can anything be done when they are discovered after death? Can they be fixed so as to preserve what the deceased intended to happen? Or will it result in an intestacy?
Meaning of “nieces and nephews” – the general assumption
Our nieces and nephews are the children of our brothers and sisters, this hardly needs saying. If someone wishes to leave a gift to their “nieces and nephews” in their will, it should be a simple matter, when the time comes, to identify which individuals are a niece or a nephew and so entitled to share in the inheritance. However circumstances and relationship may change from the time a will is made to the date of death. More →
A grant of probate is the document issued by the Court of Probate after the examination process. A type of grant of representation, it is an order of the Court certifying that the executor (or personal representative) named in the document is lawfully authorised to administer the estate of the deceased person. More →
Court costs in contesting a will may run into thousands.
If you are thinking of making a claim for family provision under a will, despite all efforts to find a solution, including mediation, don’t assume that your costs will be paid out of the estate; at least in New South Wales. What happens depends on individual circumstances.
In recent years the New South Wales Supreme Court has made it clear that the expectation that the costs of making a family provision claim will automatically be paid out of the estate, has been “thoroughly discredited.”1
What does the ‘residue’ or ‘to give the residue of my estate’ mean?
The residue of a deceased person’s estate is what is left over after the payment of all expenses in connection with the estate.
Expenses include payment of the funeral, costs incurred in the administration of the estate, payment of the deceased’s debts, the discharge of any liabilities of the deceased, and the distribution of any specific gifts made under their will.
The residue or residuary estate is property of the deceased not disposed of by the terms of their will.
Intestacy is when you die without leaving a will. You are said to have died “intestate”. In the absence of instructions left in a valid will, who will inherit your property? Succession law contains strict rules to deal with this problem.
This is an outline of the application of the intestacy rules. They specify the order of entitlement as to who inherits and in what proportion, as well as the provision of a sum of money (statutory legacy) for the spouse or partner. More →
To see the will, view it or obtain access to the will of a deceased person
To see the will of a deceased person and getting a copy can be difficult when you are not the executor or administrator. However in some states changes to the legislation on wills and succession has made this easier by making it clear the category of persons who are entitled to see or inspect the will of a deceased person.
A family tree is a record of information about family relationships. It is useful to have a basic outline of close family/next of kin relationships to keep with your personal papers. This maybe unnecessary you might think.
However a family tree can be helpful in preparing to make a will, especially where large, complex estates, blended families and business succession issues are involved. More →
Per stirpes and per capita distribution of a deceased estate
Per stirpes and per capitaare Latin terms referring to the ways in which a person’s estate can be distributed among their descendants, their children, grandchildren and so on. A person’s descendants are often referred to as “issue” in succession and inheritance law. As the term ‘issue’ refers to more family than just ‘children’ this can lead to confusion when interpreting what a will-maker intended. For more see this article on using the words “issue” and “children” in wills.
Per stirpes and per capita are different ways of distributing property among a group or class of people, either under a will or when there isn’t one. They address the situation where one or more family descendants of a person have predeceased them. Per stirpes means ‘by the stocks, roots or branch” and per capita means ‘by the head’, by each individual person in equal shares. More →