Former wife of deceased doctor awarded $750,000

Published 08 Feb 2017

A woman has won a family provision claim against the estate of her former husband after all his assets were left to his adult daughter. The deceased, a doctor, had divorced his wife in 1995, nearly 20 years before he died in 2014.

The man passed away without executing a will, which means his $5 million estate underwent intestacy proceedings and was bequeathed to his daughter in its entirety.

When couples get divorced, the final matrimonial financial settlement between former spouses typically makes claims on an estate more difficult. This is because the purpose of such a split is to allow each party to embark on a new life separately without obligation to one another.

In this particular case, however, the judge decided to award the deceased’s ex-wife, the plaintiff, $750,000 from his estate.

Family provision claim details

Supreme Court documents show the relationship between the deceased and his ex-wife was fraught following an acrimonious split.

The plaintiff attempted to have child maintenance payments raised several times and reported the deceased to the NSW Health Department Complaints Unit because they had begun their relationship while she was his patient.

She also claimed he had firearms and was attempting to kidnap his daughter from the plaintiff’s custody, causing police officers to attend his hospital workplace and serve him with a summons. He described this event as “deeply humiliating”.

The plaintiff also sent the deceased threatening letters when he was alive, claiming she would continue to “make what was left” of “his wretched life not worth living”.

This hostility continued until his death, and the plaintiff is also estranged from her daughter with the deceased. The claimant keeps in contact with a daughter from a previous marriage, but this relationship is also strained.

Judge’s decision

Despite the antagonistic attitude of the plaintiff, Supreme Court Judge Paul le Gay Brereton believed she should receive a share of the deceased’s estate.

First, the plaintiff had cared for the couple’s daughter for 15 years after the divorce, which hampered her earning potential. Second, the claimant had received a fairly small matrimonial estate after she split from the deceased, and his wealth had increased considerably since then.

The plaintiff had also been in three car accidents and suffered severe injuries and lasting disabilities that prevented her from working. Finally, her doctors claimed she had experienced significant psychological problems as a result of the divorce from her husband, a factor that contributed to her bitterness towards him.

Therefore, Judge Brereton awarded the plaintiff enough money for the purchase of a home and other contingencies, leaving the remainder of the $4.25 million estate to the deceased’s daughter.

Please contact us today if you’d like to know more about contesting a will or family provision claims.

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