Colleen McCullough died in January, 2015 and was known as one of Australia’s most successful literary writers. The author of the international successful novel The Thorn Birds, published in 1977, had an Estate estimated to be worth millions of dollars at the time of her death.Continue Reading
Successful Family Provision Claim - From a Foster Child
In this case, the deceased died aged 95 years old. She was a widow with two children, Graham aged 67 and Paul aged 65. The Will Challenge was made by Vera Hamilton, who the deceased and her late husband had cared for as a foster child for about 18 months.
The deceased left a valid Will gifting her jewellery and personal belongings to her granddaughters, a third of the proceeds of her bank accounts and cash to Vera and the remainder of her Estate to be divided equally between her two sons. The value of the deceased’s Estate was approximately $885,000 with approximately $5,000 in the deceased bank account and cash in hand. The total amount in the bank account was distributed to Vera as a gesture of good faith by the deceased’s two sons.
The Court considered and agreed that Vera was an eligible person to Challenge the Will, as she had been dependent on the deceased for a period of time and part of the deceased’s household.
The Court then considered the evidence provided in support of Vera’s claim. This evidence included a DVD showing one of Vera’s children referring to the deceased as Grandma, as well as video of the deceased sponsoring Vera’s daughters confirmation. There was also evidence that Vera and the deceased maintained contact by regular visits, telephone calls and letters.
The Court then considered whether Vera was in need of a larger provision from the deceased’s Estate, including her financial circumstances, age and health as well as those of Vera’s husband.
The Court decided that Vera should receive a lump sum from the deceased’s Estate and after considering the circumstances surrounding Vera’s relationship with the deceased, made an order for Vera to receive a lump sum of $80,000 from the deceased Estate.
This is successful Will challenge shows the value of reliable evidence that you can put before the Court. If you are thinking about contesting a Will be sure to prepare evidence such as your relationship with the deceased, your financial position and any assistance (financial or otherwise) that you provided to the deceased during their lifetime.
This case also showed that the Court will take into account statements from witnesses that detail comments made by the deceased while they were alive, about who they wanted to inherit from their Estate – this is commonly referred to as statements that showed the testamentary capacity of the deceased.