De-facto partner challenges makeshift will

Published 30 Dec 2014

The de-facto partner of a deceased cancer victim has launched an inheritance dispute after arguing a makeshift document outlining her final wishes should not count as an official will.

According to the court judgment, the decedent left an estate worth $795,000 when she died aged 43 years old at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Camperdown, NSW. She was also the co-account holder, along with the de-facto partner, on two bank accounts with a combined value of approximately $245,000.

While the deceased failed to leave a formal will, she did write a detailed description of how she would like to distribute her estate upon her death on a notepad found in her belongings. In the document, the woman left the majority of her estate to her daughter, including a property in Greenacre, which would be held in trust until the mortgage was paid.

Provisions were also made for her daughter’s son and the deceased’s parents. A small sum was also set aside for her de-facto partner.

Partner challenges the will

The original plaintiff in the case was the daughter, who sought an order for the makeshift will to be admitted to probate as an informal will.

However, the de-facto partner filed a cross-claim suggesting that the deceased died intestate, which would result in him receiving a much larger percentage of assets based on intestacy calculations.

Importantly, the courts acknowledged that the six-year relationship between the de-facto partners was strained. The deceased made several references to this in the disputed document, specifically noting she was in a “dysfunctional, non-romantic existence” with the cross-claimant.

The deceased’s diary also read “I don’t know if he deserves anything” in reference to her estate. Hospital records showed the woman made several attempts in the days leading up to her death to settle her finances.

Makeshift will accepted

The courts decided to accept the makeshift will as a formal document outlining the deceased’s wishes to distribute most of her estate to her daughter.

Furthermore, the de-facto partner’s claim under cross-examination that the deceased had changed her intentions for the Greenacre property shortly before death was discounted.

The judge added that the man acted in a “strident, adversarial manner, for personal advantage” during the proceedings.

In making the decision, the courts made an order that the partner should pay the legal costs of the deceased’s daughter, with any remainder coming out of the estate.

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