A complex family provision claim heard at the NSW Supreme Court has resulted in a $550,000 lump sum legacy to a mentally disabled carer who looked after a reclusive woman for two years before her death.
The plaintiff said he originally met the deceased in 1979 when he began a sexual relationship with her and her partner that lasted for six months. A chance encounter between the pair in 2012, when the deceased was already terminally ill from cancer, rekindled their friendship.
Before her death, the plaintiff provided her with care services, which included toileting, preparing and serving meals, shopping for groceries, driving, and general mobility assistance.
The woman died intestate, with her only surviving relative – a brother – set to receive the entire estate before the claim. Her brother was also the executor of the estate and defended the case.
Key factors in inheritance dispute
One of the key themes running through the case was the plaintiff’s mental health disability. This was considered severe enough for the court to make all parties in the hearing anonymous in court documents.
Justice Geoff Lindsay also referred to the plaintiff’s disability on several occasions when explaining his decision due to the wide-ranging impact it had on the case, including the man’s evidence, which showed signs of paranoia.
Meanwhile, the plaintiff’s ability to care for the deceased was called into question, given the squalor she lived in prior to her death, as well as bedsores and other injuries she suffered that indicated neglect.
Justice Lindsay had to consider whether the plaintiff could be ruled an eligible person under the Succession Act 2006, particularly with regards to the nature of their relationship and living arrangements.
Awarding the legacy
According to Justice Lindsay, the plaintiff was an eligible person under the act, despite the fact he did not live full-time with the deceased and they had a tumultuous relationship.
As such, the judge ruled in favour of the plaintiff, although he raised concerns over the carer’s ability to cope with a lump sum legacy.
“I propose to grant the plaintiff a legacy in the sum of $550,000, but I very much doubt his capacity to manage such a sum without professional assistance,” he explained.
Justice Lindsay therefore suggested that the plaintiff’s lawyers should consult with NSW Trustee to ensure the appropriate management of any money received from the estate of the deceased.
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