Contesting Wills NSW woman dies intestate, survivors squabble over property

Date: Jan 19, 2020

A NSW woman died intestate on 19 June 2017, leaving property in Cammeray, New South Wales. After her death, a plaintiff claiming to be a “spouse” of the deceased claimed provision should be made out of the deceased’s Estate for the plaintiff’s maintenance, education and advancement in life.

Initial court judgment

The primary judgement was made by the Court in favour of the plaintiff, declaring that he was the surviving spouse of the deceased, and an order granting letters of administration of the deceased’s Estate to him as a surviving spouse, and noting that even if he were only an “eligible person” a provision should indeed be made in his favour from the deceased’s Estate. The provision suggested was a life estate in the Cammeray Property, together with a lump sum of $400,000. The net distributable Estate was valued at $3,544,416.48, including properties, bank and trust accounts as well as a car.

First offer

On 20 December 2017, the plaintiff’s solicitor wrote to the defendant’s solicitor claiming interest in the Estate, due to the claim the plaintiff “was in a domestic partnership with the deceased immediately before her death on 19 June 2017”. An offer was made by the plaintiff to resolve the dispute before the commencement of legal proceedings. The offer was rejected, and the defendant’s solicitor replied saying the family and beneficiaries chose to fight the ruling, claiming that the deceased had made statements to other members of the family denying the relationship.

Continued offers

On 24 May 2019, the plaintiff served on the defendant three further offers of settlement, the third and final of which requested a provision out of the estate of the deceased for the plaintiff’s maintenance, education and advancement in life by way of title to the Cammeray property and all the household goods and personal effects contained therein plus a lump sum of $200,000, plus all court costs on both sides to be paid out of the estate. A fourth similar offer was made after this for lesser court costs, but the defendant still resisted any settlement offers.

The ruling

The Court found that the plaintiff supported his case, and the defendant did not manage to refute it, especially after forensic analysis of phone records and other proof provided by the plaintiff. It was ordered that the plaintiff’s costs be payable out of the Estate on an indemnity basis, and that the defendant’s costs be payable out of the Estate on the ordinary basis up until 21 June 2019, with the defendant to bear his own costs thereafter, and the plaintiff was awarded the property and $200,000 (approx 80% of the total Estate).

If a family member has died intestate, or you seek help in contesting a Will, don’t hesitate to get in contact with Gerard Malouf and Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers. Our team can help you with inheritance disputes and applications, so reach out today.

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts, or email your enquiry.