The importance of relationships in contesting wills cases

Published 21 Feb 2014

A recent contesting wills case heard by the Supreme Court of New South Wales demonstrates how important relationships are when it comes to deciding who gets what share of an estate.

When Neda Duracic passed away on March 18, 2012, she left behind two-third of her residence and a sum of money. The latter was divided into six legacies of $10,000 and given to her six relatives: two sisters, three nephews and one niece - all of whom live in Croatia. The remainder of Ms Duracic's estate was left to her "very poor sister".

Nevenko Skarica, the "boyfriend" of Ms Duracic, was not left anything in her will. He was, however, referred to. Ms Duracic states:

"I hereby declare that I do not wish to make any further provision to my boyfriend the said NEVENKO SKARICA, because I already gave him one third of my property at Goodlet Street, Surry Hills."

Despite this, Mr Skarica decided to bring a contesting wills case against Ms Duracic's estate on the grounds that he was living in a "close personal relationship" with the deceased and therefore eligible to ask for a greater share of her assets under the Succession Act 2006 (New South Wales).

The part relationships play when contesting a will

First, the Supreme Court of New South Wales had to determine whether or not Mr Nevenko was in fact allowed to challenge Ms Duracic's will. 

Although the deceased referred to Mr Nevenko as her "boyfriend" in her will, the Supreme Court of New South Wales had a difficult time getting to grips with the nature of their relationship. Mr Nevenko provided the Supreme Court of New South Wales with "inconsistent statements" about their relationship, and it appears they never lived together "in a conventional, single household". 

However, the fact that Ms Duracic took the time to mention Mr Nevenko in her will - even though it was to say he wouldn't receive any portion of her estate - was regarded as proof that he was "someone important in the life of the deceased" and therefore had "a reasonable expectation of inheritance from her estate".

The Supreme Court of New South Wales therefore decided that Mr Nevenko was eligible to bring a contesting wills case against the deceased's estate. He was eventually granted a gross sum of $125,000, in part due to his relationship with Ms Duracic.

If you believe you have been treated unfairly by a loved one's will, get in touch with contesting wills lawyers today.

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