The importance of estate planning: Intestacy disputes

Date: Apr 09, 2014

A common issue that leads to estate disputes is intestacy.

Intestacy occurs when an individual dies without having made a will, leaves behind a will that does not cover all of their assets, or leaves a will that is not valid due to failure to comply with legal rules of construction.

If a person you were dependent upon was to die without a will, the Supreme Court of New South Wales would take control of distributing their assets. The Court uses a standard formula to decide who receives the deceased person's estate.

This formula is contained within NSW legislation, introduced just four years ago as part of the Succession Amendment (Intestacy) Act 2009.

Under the new Act, assets are distributed to relatives in the following order: to the deceased's spouse and / or children, then parents, then siblings, then nieces and nephews, then grandparents, then aunts and uncles, and finally cousins. Prior to the new intestacy laws, cousins were not eligible to receive any intestate property or possessions.

This formula unfortunately only accounts for family members, which means that if an unrelated individual was also financial reliant on the deceased, they would not receive any portion of the estate. This is why it is crucial to ensure you make time for estate planning to ensure those you are not directly related to can still be taken care of after your death.

Even if the deceased has no living family members, the estate becomes property of the Crown rather than being passed onto friends and other dependents.

Fortunately, the new intestacy laws give a number of people the right to make an estate dispute regarding the Crown's ownership of these assets.

Those who have the right to dispute intestacy provisions include dependents of the deceased who were not related, individuals who have a "just or moral claim" on the deceased's estate, and any person or organisation the deceased might reasonably be expected to financially care for - such as a charity the deceased was particularly invested in.

Additionally, trustees of any organisation or person who falls in the above categories may also make an estate dispute.

If you meet any of these criteria, you may want to get in touch with a lawyer with experience in estate disputes and contesting wills.

The estate lawyers at Craddock Murray Neumann can help you get the share of assets you deserve. For more information, get in touch with the team today.