It’s common knowledge in New South Wales that, when putting together a will, you can leave your assets to pretty much anyone you like.
However, if you fail to adequately provide for a family member who had reason to expect a larger portion of your estate, they may contest a will you’ve made.
This is exactly what happened to Phyllis Marjorie Davis, who passed away on December 8, 2011, and left a will expressing her last wishes.
Ms Davis’s two daughters, Sally and Alison, were both provided for in their 99-year-old mother’s will. They are Ms Davis’s only surviving relatives and the only people eligible to bring a contesting wills case against their mother’s estate.
In her will, Ms Davis stated that Sally, her youngest daughter, was to receive her diamond engagement ring and “both of my aquamarine rings … with my love”. The document goes on to say that Sally owns a home and therefore “has no need of my home as inheritance”.
To her eldest daughter Alison, Ms Davis was a bit more generous. This 76-year-old woman was granted the “rest and residue” of her mother’s estate, “for her sole use and benefit absolutely”. Ms Davis said that Sally would only receive these assets if Alison were to predecease her younger sister.
The largest part of the “rest and residue” granted to Alison was her mother’s house at Mowbray Road, Lane Cove, which was valued at approximately $980,000. The rings left to Sally were valued at $2,650.
Sally, unsurprisingly, decided to get in touch with a contesting wills lawyer and oppose how she’d been dealt with in Ms Davis’ will. Her sister admitted that Ms Davis and Sally had enjoyed a “close lifelong relationship” and agreed that Sally was entitled to a bigger share of their mother’s estate.
So, the Supreme Court of New South Wales was left to decide how much Sally should be granted, taking into account a number of factors.
These included Sally’s relationship with her mother, the “the nature and extent of any obligations or responsibilities” owed by Ms Davis to her youngest daughter, the size of Ms Davis’s estate and the character and conduct of Sally both prior to and after her mother’s death.
In the end, the Supreme Court decided to give Sally a lump sum of $220,000 from Ms Davis’s estate.
If you believe you have been treated unfairly in a loved one’s will and would like to explore your options for contesting a will, Gerard Malouf Partners can help.