It is not uncommon to turn on the news and hear of people successfully contesting estates: In 2017 Olivia Mead contested the Will of her late father, mining magnate Michael Wright, to ultimately receive over $6 million in cash and in 2015, Shari Lea Hitchcock and her 'love child' daughter Paula successfully contested the estate of the late Richard Pratt to receive over $100 million.
But for all the success of these examples, there are many others who are not as lucky. Recently a son was denied provision from the estate of his father, the Court noting there that he had made "more of his life than his other three [siblings]". In another case, an estranged daughter's claim on her late mother's estate failed and she was forced to pay considerable costs to the estate for legal fees.
So what establishes the grounds for a successful claim?
Firstly, you must be eligible to make the claim. For many, this is automatic by virtue of being the spouse, de facto or child of the deceased person. Other categories such as step children, grand children and financial dependents must meet further criteria before they are considered eligible.
Assuming the eligibility criteria is met; the applicant then must show that adequate and proper provision has not been made for them from the Will.
To determine this, the Court looks at many factors. A non exhaustive list includes
- the nature of the relationship between the eligible person and the deceased;
- conduct of other persons before and after the deceased's death;
- whether there was any period of estrangement, how long for and why;
- The financial circumstances of the eligible person and if applicable, anyone whom they co-habitat with;
- whether provision has been given to the eligible person previously during the deceased's lifetime;
- any disabilities that the eligible person, or a person they support, are suffering.
Safe to say, making a successful claim takes proper guidance and advice.
At Kells we endeavour to get the best quality outcomes for all of our clients and can help guide you through the entire process. If you believe you may have a claim contact us and make an appointment today as strict Court time limits apply!