Excessive costs lead to unsuccessful estate dispute

Date: Mar 18, 2015

When individuals make a claim for family provision from an estate, one of the core considerations the courts will make is whether or not a claim is fair and justifiable.

This will depend on a number of key considerations, including the financial position of both the person making the claim and the other beneficiaries, the size of the estate and the existing distribution.

In some cases, a family provision claim will be deemed excessive, on the basis that the broader position of the estate doesn't allow for a further award to an applicant. In a recent case before the NSW Supreme Court, this issue formed a major component of an unsuccessful family provision case.

The legal action arose following the deceased's passing in 2013. The man's estate left the residue of his possessions to his daughter and his de facto partner, with a split of two-thirds and one-third respectively for the two parties. The majority of the man's estate consisted of a property which he cohabited with his partner.

Following the man's passing, his former partner launched a family provision claim, in the hope that her share of the estate might be increased. She argued that the existing allowance would not permit her to purchase a comparable property to support her in the long-term and therefore she ought to receive a larger share of the estate.

While the plaintiff met the conditions which qualify a person to make a family provision claim, the estate dispute was unsuccessful, owing to a number of factors. The Supreme Court ruled that because of the size of the estate and the respective financial positions of the two parties, there was no grounds for a further allowance from the remaining assets. 

The Supreme Court also rejected the assertion that the woman's legal costs come out from the residue of the estate. This was because these expenses would form a substantial deduction from the overall value of the estate, which the Court felt would be unwarranted.

Clearly, this case illustrates the issues that can lead to an unsuccessful estate dispute. For those placed in such a position, it will be important to seek the right legal advice and to properly consider whether or not there are grounds for an estate dispute.

To learn more about the process of disputing an estate, or to seek personalised advice on taking the next step with an estate dispute, individuals will need to consult with a wills and estates lawyer.