Mother of seven’s will challenged in court

Published 24 Nov 2015

There is no doubt that estate allocation is more difficult in a large family. When everyone has an opinion or agenda, keeping this process fair can be tricky and could result in a contested will.

This was the case in a claim that was recently settled in the NSW Supreme Court.

The case of Pila Ruiz’s estate

Pila Ruiz died aged 91 years on September 26 2014. An immigrant from Spain in the 1960s, Ms Ruiz and her husband settled in NSW with the intention of continuing to raise their family in Australia.

Ms Ruiz had seven children between 1943 and 1967 before her husband died in 1974. In 2002, she completed her will which was granted probate to two of her sons on December 19 2014 after her death.

As part of this will, each one of Ms Ruiz’s seven children were provided for. However, in contrast to their siblings, two daughters were only given $500 each. The rest of the $421,000 estate was divided between Ms Ruiz’s five other children.

This resulted in one of the daughters launching a family provision claim.

Why was this the case?

According to the NSW Supreme Court, the reason for the different provisions dated back to the year 2000.

As the beneficiaries of their late father’s Spanish estate, each child was given an amount of money between $5,000 and $10,000. Ms Ruiz took offence that two of her daughters withheld this money from her, which they could do legally, whereas their siblings deferred the income to their mother.

This conflict led Ms Ruiz to amend her previous will and make a clear difference between the allocations of five children and the other two.

How did the case manifest?

In cases such as this, it is the responsibility of the plaintiff and legal team to highlight the financial consequences of the individual not being adequately provided for from the estate.

The NSW Supreme Court stated that in the case of Ms Ruiz’s estate, all five of the other siblings testified against the plaintiff’s claim. They claimed that she was “undeserving, and the author of her own misfortune”.

The plaintiff’s children also spoke in court, confirming their mother’s difficult financial situation and how appropriate provisions were required.

As a result of the statements and evidence, the Judge confirmed that the breakdown of the relationship between Ms Ruiz and her daughter could not be blamed on either party. They also agreed that the daughter’s financial situation led her to hold onto her father’s estate money and this was reasonable under the circumstances.

On November 17 2015, the court stated that the daughter should receive $50,000 out of her mother’s estate as adequate provision was not granted by Ms Ruiz.

For more information about family provision claims, contact our expert legal team today.

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