On 26 February 2015 Master Sanderson of the Supreme Court of
Western Australia delivered a decision in the matter of Mead v
Lemon  WASC 71 in which he found that $25 million was
adequate provision for the plaintiff in a claim commenced under the
Family Provision Act 1972 (WA) (the
The estate was extraordinary. Michael Wright had vast wealth.
When he died he was survived by 3 children of a former wife and the
plaintiff, Olivia Mead, 19 years old, whose mother had had a
relationship with him. The deceased spent very little time with
Olivia at all and had provided little support to her or her
In this case the estate was so large that precise valuation was
unnecessary. The entitlement of 2 of the defendant children as
residuary estate beneficiaries, for example, was in the order of
$400 million each under the will, providing each of them an
expectant income of approximately $24 million per year. The
speculated estate size was potentially $1 billion.
Olivia had a $3 million trust fund set up under the terms of the
will, but which contained terms which the Master found could
operate in an entirely oppressive and capricious fashion to exclude
her from receiving anything, such as being other than of Christian
faith. Adequate provision had to be considered in the circumstances
of the estate.
Evidence about Olivia's claimed needs extended to many high
value items and some found to be of a fanciful nature, such as a
$250,000 guitar, despite not having had guitar lessons for some
years nor being a professional musician. However, speculation about
what she might do study and career wise and how many children she
might have as a 19 year old left many options for her in life as
well as many uncertainties. Olivia's claim through actuarial
evidence was of a need for $13 – $20 million.
The defendants argued $3 million was proper provision and that
an award should do no more than provide adequate provision for the
proper maintenance, support, education or advancement in
Olivia's life, though the Master noted that the Court's
discretion is unfettered once the Court was satisfied that the will
made inadequate provision for her, and had to take into account the
circumstances when the orders were made.
Relevant to that discretion, no other individual beneficiary
would suffer the typical detriment where increased provision was
made from a smaller estate. In awarding an unprecedented $25
million cash on condition of forfeiting any right in the trust set
up under the will, Master Sanderson mostly focussed on the size of
the estate and the fact that, wisely invested, Olivia and her
family would never want for anything ever again. In the context of
the estate he commented that that sum was "little more than a
rounding error". He commented though that it was not about
fairness or about compensating Olivia for the deceased's
limitations as a father but considered the position of a wise and
just testator, that of community expectation and the duties of a
parent arising under the Act.
This case has been of significant media interest. The award of
such an enormous sum is extraordinary, particularly as it is higher
than Olivia sought herself. Nonetheless the principles applied will
be of relevance to high value estates in future cases.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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