A long-running will dispute over a successful businesswoman’s $14 million empire appears to have finally come to a conclusion at NSW Supreme Court.
The case saw two of the woman’s adult children launch family provision claims against their mother’s estate, despite each receiving a $2 million legacy in her will.
According to the plaintiffs, the money was insufficient to meet their needs, particularly as their sister was left approximately $8.5 million.
Why did the plaintiffs launch family provision claims?
The plaintiffs were the deceased’s eldest and youngest of her three children – a son and daughter, respectively.
In addition to the $2 million bequests, the deceased also said the plaintiffs should each receive a 50 per cent share of the residuary estate. This means they would be given any remaining assets or money after the estate had been distributed to named beneficiaries.
The deceased, who passed away in 2011, had built a sizeable estate by the time of her death, having founded and grown various bridal stores and related businesses across Australia and the US.
Unfortunately for the plaintiffs, there was no residuary estate, leaving the pair with a considerably smaller share of their mother’s wealth than their sister.
Bitter feuds complicate family provision claims
The inheritance dispute was an acrimonious affair, with significant bitterness between the plaintiffs and other family members.
Both plaintiffs were accused of being verbally abusive towards their mother and surviving relatives, including angry phone calls, drunken threats and generally belligerent behaviour.
A significant part of the legal proceedings related to $881,000 that the deceased loaned to her son. He claimed the money was a gift and did not need to be repaid, despite a contract between the pair clearly describing the transaction as a loan.
Justice Francois Kunc ruled the $881,000 should be subtracted from any award of further provision provided to the plaintiff.
Did contesting the will succeed?
Justice Kunc decided the plaintiffs had not received adequate provision from their mother’s estate, notwithstanding the significant legacies they had already been given.
The judge took into account the siblings’ poor financial situations, their declining health and the substantial size of the estate when announcing his decision.
As such, the youngest daughter was awarded a further $1.2 million, while her brother will receive enough additional money to purchase a three-bedroom property with a further $200,000 for contingencies.
The decision highlights how family provision claims can still succeed even when the plaintiffs have already received a sizeable legacy from a loved one’s will.
If you would like to contest a will in NSW, please Gerard Malouf & Partners Will Dispute Lawyers to see whether you could be eligible for further provision from an estate.