What are my options if an entire estate was left to charity?

Published 05 May 2015

Author: David Cossalter

As a result of Australia's open and free legislative framework, people are allowed to choose who they leave their estate to upon their death. While many individuals decide to leave their entire estate to family members, some believe that charities and not-for-profit organisations would benefit more from the cash injection rather than their descendants.

While this is a noble deed, it can be problematic for family members and other individuals who depended on the deceased or are in a tricky financial situation. If you find yourself facing a similar situation, it will pay to get in touch with a contesting wills lawyer who can talk you through your individual case and advise you of the entire process.

So, what are the next steps and how can you make a claim on the deceased's will?

Establish relationship

There are many reasons why a deceased person would choose to leave their entire estate to a charity. However, if you can prove your relationship with the deceased, it is possible to override these wishes and get the estates divided amongst those contesting the will.

For a de facto partner, this could include shared bills, mortgage statements or bank statements, for example. In the case of a child or grandchild, a birth certificate or similar could suffice.

Once a tangible link has been established between you and the deceased, we are able to progress to the next step.

Establish need

It is important to remember that just because you are eligible for a claim, doesn't mean you are entitled to win. This is because it is still the deceased's right to choose how their estate is allocated. However, if you can prove that not receiving anything hurts your current financial situation, there is a chance that the charity's allocation will decrease.

To prove your hardship, bank statements, mortgage payments and debt invoices can be used to illustrate your position.

Establish lines of communication

In our experience, charities don't challenge claims by eligible applicants as they don't want to take the case to trial. Instead, mediation between the parties is established so both you and the charity can benefit from the deceased's assets.

Contested wills involving charities often result in the claimant winning a percentage of the estate. However, it is key to go down the proper channels with a lawyer who can direct your case and ensure that the process runs as smoothly as possible.

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