Intestacy and Inheritance Disputes

Published 11 Feb 2014

One common issue that can lead to inheritance disputes is known as “intestacy”.

This is when a person dies without leaving a will behind and, as a result, their assets are distributed by the Supreme Court of New South Wales. Who receives the deceased’s property and possessions is determined by a standard formula, according to the Law Society of New South Wales.

The legislation around intestacy differs from state to state in Australia. A range of new intestacy laws were introduced in New South Wales just four years ago as part of the Succession Amendment (Intestacy) Act 2009. These aimed to broaden the amount and type of people who could receive a share of a person’s estate if they didn’t possess a will.

Now, the standard formula distributes assets to relatives in the following order: to the deceased’s spouse and / or children, then parents, then siblings, then nieces and nephews, then grandparents, then aunts and uncles, and finally cousins. Prior to the new intestacy laws, cousins were not eligible to receive any intestate property or possessions.

As you can see, only relatives of a person who dies intestate stand to receive any property or possessions from them under the standard formula.

If you have no relatives to speak of, though, your estate will become the Crown’s property. However, the new intestacy laws state that a number of people have the right to dispute the Crown’s right to this property.

These include any dependents of the deceased that were not related to them, people who have “a just or moral claim” on the deceased, any organisation – such as a charity the deceased was particularly involved with during their lifetime – or person that might have reasonably expected to be provided for by the deceased, as well as trustees of any such organisations or people.

If you fall into this group, estate lawyers who are experienced in contesting wills and handling inheritance disputes may be able to help you get your share of the assets.

It’s important to note the new intestacy laws state that any person eligible for a portion of the deceased’s estate must survive the deceased by at least 30 days. The New South Wales Trustee and Guardian reveals it used to be that a person just needed to survive the deceased.

For more information, get in touch with the team of contesting wills lawyers at Gerard Malouf Partners today.

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