Contesting A Will – Left Out Of The Will – The Beneficiaries – The Rinehart Case
In days of divorces, remarriages and blended families, issues often arise around inheritance. These issues have led to an increase in Wills being Contested by family members, and it is something that can happen in all families – even famous ones!
One famous example that caught the attention of the public, was the legal battle between Gina Rinehart and Rose Porteous over the Estate of Gina’s father Lang Hancock who had married Rose.
Lang Hancock was the major shareholder in a company that was the owner of Hope Downs, an iron ore mine in Western Australia. Lang’s Estate was apparently worth an estimated $150 million dollars when he died in 1992. Lang’s death started an 11 year battle between Rose and Gina, over his Estate including the valuable iron ore royalty rights.
Lang left a Will dated 1991 and three codicils from late 1991 and early 1992. In his Will, Lang bequeathed royalty payments to his beneficiaries. Gina argued that these royalty payments were not personal assets of Lang, but rather owned by the company. If Gina was successful, then Lang’s Estate would be worth a minimal amount and Rose, as a beneficiary of Lang’s Estate, would not receive any money from the Estate.
After years of court hearings and front page news stories Gina and Rose settled the dispute on confidential terms.
However, the dispute over the Lang’s inheritance continues today, between Gina and her children over the Trust that Lang had set up, for the benefit of his grandchildren with Gina as the Trustee. The Trust holds approximately $4 billion in shares belonging to the company and Lang’s grandchildren were allowed access to the funds in the Trust, when the youngest grandchild reached twentyfive years of age. Gina’s children are alleging that Gina, as the Trustee, changed the vesting date of the Trust, with the effect that access to the funds will not occur for a long time. The dispute is currently in the courts.
Famous families and normal families are all open to the potential of inheritance disputes, with the potential to wreak devastation on family relationships as well as financial devastation on the assets being fought over. The best way to ensure that your Estate is not subject to contested Will proceedings, is to obtain expert legal advice on your Will and Estate Planning.
An expert Wills and Estates Lawyer understands what categories of people are able to contest your Will such as ex spouses, de facto partners and step children. They will be able to advise you on how to minimise the chances of your Estate being open to challenge.
If you need advice on how to protect your Estate from being challenged in a Contested Will dispute you need to seek legal advice from an Expert Wills & Estates Lawyer. You need to speak to Graeme Heckenberg an expert litigation lawyer at Sydney Wills Lawyers, on how to successfully contest a Will or defend a challenge to a Will. We specialise in Wills & Estate Law and pride ourselves on our open and honest communication with client’s.
Call today for an appointment on 9221 2779 – First 20 minutes of the consultation is free. This will enable assessment of your case and whether you have good grounds to contest or dispute the Will.
By Graeme Heckenberg