Dying intestate can lead to inheritance disputes

Published 05 Mar 2014

When a person passes away without a valid will, they are said to have died “intestate”. This can often lead to inheritance disputes, as no one can be certain who the deceased wanted to receive what from their estate.

It can be especially problematic for anyone who was in a de facto or same-sex relationship with the intestate person at the time of their death. According to the New South Wales Attorney General and Justice, when someone dies without a will, their assets are distributed using a pre-determined formula.

Basically, an administrator will be appointed by the Supreme Court, who will look at the deceased’s family tree in order to determine who will benefit from their estate. This administrator will also be responsible for organising a funeral, collecting the deceased’s assets together and paying off any outstanding debts or taxes.

Because a de facto or same-sex partner of the deceased will not feature on their family tree, it’s unlikely they will receive even a speck of their loved one’s estate unless they bring forward a family provision claim.

You will need to prove you’re status as a de facto or same-sex partner in order for the Supreme Court of New South Wales to regard you as eligible to make a claim – a process that can sometimes be quite complicated. If you’re planning to do this, you may want to get in touch with contesting wills lawyers.

They can help you understand what’s expected of you and determine whether you have solid grounds for a case.

A recent case heard by the Supreme Court sheds light on how the assets of intestate persons are dealt with in New South Wales.

Mervyn Joseph Francis passed away on October 29, 2009, without a valid will. He had no spouse and no children or dependents at the time of his death, so the Supreme Court was forced to trawl through his family tree to find any surviving relatives who could be granted his estate.

The was some evidence that Mr Francis’s father could still be alive, but this was sketchy at best. Mr Francis’s father’s name was not mentioned on his birth certificate, so it was nigh-on impossible to discover his identity or locate him.

In the end, Mr Francis’s estate was given to his brother or half-brother (it was impossible to determine which), Kevin James Francis.

If a loved one dies intestate and you feel you should be provided for out of their estate, get in touch with contesting wills lawyers.

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