Evenly split estates still lead to inheritance disputes

Published 13 May 2014

A parent attempting to be fair during their succession planning may decide to split their estate evenly amongst their children. However, this choice can still lead to inheritance disputes as it fails to take into account the financial standing of each individual beneficiary.

An example of this unfortunate scenario was recently seen by the Supreme Court of New South Wales.

An estate split three ways

When a mother passed away in 2011, her will dictated that her estate be shared equally between her three children, with each individual receiving a complete third.

However, a family provision claim was soon lodged by one of the deceased’s daughters. The plaintiff believed she deserved a larger portion of her mother’s estate due to her financial standing and inability to find employment.

Due to injuries sustained in a childhood accident, and psychological issues created through workplace bullying and harassment, the plaintiff was unemployed and had been thus far unable to purchase her own home. She decided to contest her mother’s will in an effort to improve her financial situation by buying a property.

The Supreme Court agreed with the woman’s claims, particularly as her employment history and medical conditions meant it was unlikely the plaintiff would be able to find a job and provide for herself financially.

It was also found that the plaintiff’s brother holds significant investments and a substantial superannuation fund to help boost his income.

When deciding on how to distribute the deceased’s estate, the Supreme Court understood that the plaintiff’s sister also suffers from various medical conditions and does not currently hold down a job. The sister does, however, own a property without a mortgage and therefore has access to long-term, stable accommodation.

Under the original will, each child was expected to receive $280,000 from the estate. The Supreme Court agreed that the plaintiff required more than her siblings to care for herself financially. It was therefore decided that the two siblings would receive $175,000 each, leaving the plaintiff with a 55 per cent share in the total estate.

While the deceased may have thought she was making the right decision by splitting her estate evenly between her children, a failure to consider the financial needs of each child lead to an unfortunate inheritance dispute.

If you believe a parent has not provided fairly for you in their will, you can contact a contesting wills lawyer at Gerard Malouf Partners to help make a family provision claim.

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