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Inheritance dispute over parking space reaches Supreme Court

The niece and two nephews of a deceased woman have pursued an inheritance dispute to the Supreme Court due to ambiguities in their aunt’s will regarding a parking space.

The deceased, who passed away in May 2016 aged 82, owned two strata lots in an apartment building in Elizabeth Bay, Sydney. One lot consisted of a flat, while the other was the parking space.

In her will, she left the flat to her niece and one of the nephews, but the document is unclear whether or not she wished for the parking space to also be included.

The other nephew – the plaintiff – pursued legal proceedings, believing the space should instead be considered residual estate, making it available to other beneficiaries in the will.

How much was the space worth?

The flat and the parking space were valued at $530,000 and $70,000, respectively. The remainder of the deceased’s estate comprised monies on deposit totalling $576,000 and public company shares worth $268,000.

If the judge ruled the parking space was not included alongside the flat, the asset would be incorporated in a trust fund to be shared among the deceased’s friends and family, as well as charities. As such, the space could add more than 8 per cent to the fund’s value.

Justice Guy Parker ultimately decided that the aunt intended for the parking space and the flat to be included together in her will.

This meant the plaintiff’s case was rejected and both parts of the property will go to the defendants. But what swayed the judge’s mind?

Key factors in will dispute

Justice Parker outlined several reasons for his decision, including:

  • While the car parking space held value, this was considerably lowered if sold separately;
  • The deceased, who lived in the UK, had always treated the two lots as a single entity, and often used the car parking space herself while staying at the flat; and
  • The will states that the niece and nephew should receive the deceased’s “share and interest in Flat 20”. This indicates the apartment and any other connected assets.

“Accordingly, I propose to make a declaration to the effect that the devise in clause 3 [of the will] covers the car parking space as well as the residential unit,” Justice Parker explained.

Are you unsure about a loved one’s intentions in their will? Pursuing a will dispute can help you clarify important matters and ensure the deceased’s final wishes are carried out correctly.

Please call Gerard Malouf & Partners Will Dispute Lawyers to learn how we can help.

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Contesting Wills
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