Before contesting a will, it’s essential to have your case reviewed by specialist lawyers to gain an idea of how likely your case is to succeed. While there are a number of reasons why a judge may rule in favour of the plaintiff in these cases, there are also conditions which can make it extremely difficult for a case to be won.
A recent high-profile battle between members of one of Australia’s richest families reinforced these challenges. Despite not being provided for in her father’s will, the plaintiff in this case still was unable to claim the millions that made what she believed was her fair share of the estate.
What caused the plaintiff’s case to break down?
For a will to be valid in NSW, the person who made it has to have exhibited testamentary capacity at the time of its creation. This means they had to be of sound mind and free from any illness that may have affected their mental capacity or influenced their actions.
In the recent case involving the multi-million dollar estate of ex-Lord Mayor John Roche, the deceased’s youngest daughter had been excluded completely from his will. In 1997, Mr Roche had created a will that split his near-$60 million dollar fortune between all three daughters equally.
In 2006, that will was changed to exclude only the plaintiff in this case, the youngest of the three daughters. Her case centred around the argument that Mr Roche did not have sufficient testamentary capacity to make these changes, and therefore was not of sound mind when he excluded her.
However, the judge in charge of the case drew on a letter Mr Roche made to his solicitors as evidence to the contrary. In the document, the judge stated Mr Roche exhibited behaviours indicating he was “relatively lucid, organised and knowledgeable in his understanding of the complex family business”. As such, the plaintiff’s case was dismissed.
Why you need to contact the experts
Being left out of a loved one’s will can be a distressing and emotional time. However, it’s important to try and act rationally by consulting experts before making any major decisions. The lawyers at Gerard Malouf and Partners offer free consultations over the phone or in person.
To find out more, get in touch with us to find out if you have a case worth pursuing.