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Daughters awarded $450,000 each after contesting estranged father’s will

The daughters of a man who left a $3.2 million estate have succeeded with a family provision claim after their father left them out of his will.

Both daughters were estranged from their father at the time of his death in 2012, following acrimonious family law proceedings between their parents more than 20 years ago.

During the dispute, the two daughters sided with their mother, while the father’s two sons backed him. As a result, the man excluded his daughters from the will, while one son – also named executor – was given an 85 per cent share of the estate.

This was due to him providing significant assistance to his father during the last years of the latter’s life, including securing a Potts Point property and preventing the family home from being sold to the state bank. The man’s other son received the remaining 15 per cent of the estate.

The executor, their brother, defended the will and asked for the family provision claim to be rejected. He also argued that he had made significant financial contributions towards the estate, meaning his share of the assets should be protected.

Judge favours family provision claim

One of the key points of contention during the inheritance dispute was the source of the estrangement between the daughters and their father.

While the judge acknowledged that the daughters were somewhat to blame for the strained relationship, he said they were not entirely at fault.

There also appeared to be no specific intention to break off contact, despite allegations that one daughter had told her father he would never see his grandchildren again.

The deceased was also described as “somewhat impetuous”, having previously removed his son from an earlier will after suspecting him of stealing documents from a safe. This was later recanted.

Justice Michael Slattery therefore awarded them $450,000 each, which was taken from the executor’s share. This is roughly 15 per cent of the available assets, the same proportion that was given to their other brother.

The executor appealed the decision, stating that the trial judge erred in his decision to approve the family provision claim. However, this was unsuccessful.

Both daughters will now receive the lump sum payment in addition to having debts against the estate expunged. Court documents suggested the money would go towards paying off their mortgages and providing them with financial security as they approached retirement age.

© 2021 
Contesting Wills
 — Gerard Malouf & Partners

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