Update on Austrian estate challenge saga

Published 25 Sep 2014

The extreme lengths that some people go to contest a will are amazing, but few situations will be rare as the one recently reported on in June.

In 2007, a man in the western Austrian state of Vorarlberg died and left the his entire €10 million (AUD $14.5 million) estate to his son and daughter. A Dutchman then turned up claiming that he was the deceased’s adopted out son.

Born illegitimately, he said he was handed over to a local monastery, then adopted and raised in the Netherlands. At first, the man was welcomed like family for four days until the siblings told him that he couldn’t claim any of their father’s estate. Under Austrian law, children are guaranteed a slice of their parent’s wealth and it is impossible to disinherit them.

The siblings asked him to sign a document that would prevent him from claiming a share. However, this case has been thrown apart by the recent revelation that even the “legitimate” children might not be related to the deceased.

Earlier this week (September 23), website The Local (an Austrian English-language news site) reported that the exhumation had been carried out in private and that an Innsbruck forensics team will do the DNA analysis. This should comprehensively state who, if any, of the children are related to the deceased and can claim his estate.

The results of the test should be available in the coming weeks and, if the link is proven, it will create a very interesting inheritance case. The Volkskrant daily – the paper that first ran the story, is reporting that there is a strong physical resemblance the Dutchman and the deceased.

According to The Local, the 37-year-old legitimate son of the deceased was arrested for allegedly threatening to kill the Dutchman if he exhumed his father’s grave. There were no witnesses to the threat at the time and he was released without charge.

However, this could come up in the will challenge and perhaps go against the two siblings who currently each hold half of their father’s estate.

Challenging a will in NSW

This situation highlights a number of interesting points for people in NSW to consider. If someone dies and you are not part of the will, but believe you should be, you will need significant evidence to prove your point.

Perhaps you won’t have to exhume a body, but you could be expected to provide financial records, photographs or other evidence to suggest that you had a relationship with the deceased.

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