Pursuing family provision claims is often a big decision for relatives of the deceased because many fear the damage to relationships that contesting the will could cause. However, inheritance disputes may be the only option when people feel they have not received adequate provision from a loved one’s estate.
Chief Judge in Equity of NSW Supreme Court Julie Ward was recently tasked with ruling on a family provision claim launched by two siblings who felt the distribution of their mother’s assets unfairly favoured their brother.
The plaintiffs were successful and shared $150,000 from the estate, but what swayed the judge’s opinion in their favour? NSW Supreme Court documents provide insight into how Chief Judge Ward made her decision.
Three siblings, one house
A property located in Dora Creek formed the majority of the deceased’s $490,000 estate. The defendant – the mother’s youngest son and only inheritor – currently lives in the home, which was left to him. Both his brother and sister, the plaintiffs, received nothing in the will and argued their sibling had also benefited from the proceeds of previous real estate sales made on behalf of their mother.
Parents have a moral obligation to support their children’s maintenance and advancement in life. The Succession Act 2006 (NSW) governs the factors that judges may assess when deciding whether or not they should make a family provision order.
Common issues include the finances and health of the claimants, the effect on existing beneficiaries if a claim succeeds and the relationship the plaintiffs had with the deceased prior to the latter’s death. Parents must often have a good reason to exclude offspring from their will, particularly if they are leaving their estate entirely to a different child.
Why was the claim successful?
The daughter had various health problems and had provided care to her mother following a fall. Her finances were modest, with a sole income derived from an aged pension. The second plaintiff had a criminal history and was a reformed drug addict who was currently residing in a caravan on his sister’s property. His only income was a disability support pension.
Chief Judge Ward ruled neither sibling had received adequate provision from their mother’s will and awarded $100,000 and $50,000 to the brother and sister, respectively, based on their specific needs. The defendant is entitled to the remainder of the estate, as outlined in his mother’s will.
Cases such as this highlight how family provision claims can offer a last resort legal pathway for disinherited relatives who would otherwise receive nothing from their loved one’s estate.
Would you like to know more? Please contact Gerard Malouf & Partners Will Dispute Lawyers to see whether or not you are eligible to pursue a family provision claim.