Forfeiture of inheritance from deceased brother’s estate – Lesley McDonnell

In 2008 the deceased died at the hands of one of her two sons. In 2012, son Brent was tried and convicted before the Supreme Court of Western Australia for the murder of his mother. In 2014 this family was again touched by sadness when Brent’s brother and only other child of the deceased, Adrian passed away.  Adrian died without leaving a Will which meant his estate would be distributed according to the rules of intestacy. In 2016 a grant of letters of administration of Adrian’s estate was made to the Public Trustee (WA).

The Public Trustee (WA) made an application for direction from the Court as to how to distribute the part of Adrian’s estate which was made up of inheritance from his deceased mother’s estate.… Read More

Unsent Text Message upheld as a Will

LAMIncreasingly people live their lives through their mobile phones. In 2016 tragically a man took his own life but he left an unsent text message on his mobile phone recording his last wishes. A friend of the deceased accessed the phone after he died to look through the contact list to determine who should be informed of the deceased’s death. The friend discovered the unsent text message which stated that the deceased’s brother and nephew should “keep all that I have house and superannuation, put my ashes in the back garden”.

 A family feud erupted over the status of the unsent text message left by the deceased.… Read More

With trust comes responsibility – Lesley McDonnell

LAMAn Attorney acting pursuant to a Power of Attorney is required to comply with any and all conditions and limitations of the Power of Attorney instrument. A failure to do so, can result in the Attorney’s actions being declared unauthorised which in turn can lead to unintended consequences as the following case illustrates.

The deceased died in 2008. By her Will, the deceased gifted her interest in some real estate to her daughter. Some years before her death in 2002, the deceased had granted an enduring Power of Attorney to her son. In 2006 the deceased’s son signed paperwork as Power of Attorney for the deceased to sell the parcel of real estate that was the subject of a gift in the deceased’s Will.… Read More

Be Careful What You Promise – Lesley McDonnell

LAMThe deceased married Carol in 1988. They separated in 2008 and were divorced in 2011. On the day of their divorce, the deceased and Carol entered a Contract concerning their financial affairs. The Contract was expressed to be in consideration of each of the deceased and Carol settling disputes arising out of their matrimonial affairs. Under the Contract, the deceased agreed to provide that on his death one half of his interest in a hotel business (now valued at some $4.5 million) would be gifted to their 2 daughters, Diane and Suzanne.

In 2014, 11 days before he died, the deceased made a Will which provided in effect, that his interest in the hotel business would be divided equally between his four daughters, but only at the “Termination Date”.… Read More

Gifting a mess to your family when you die – Lesley McDonnell

LAMIn 2015 the deceased died suddenly at the age of 55 without leaving a Will. The deceased was survived by three siblings. The applicant claimed that at the time of his death, she had been in a continuous 12-year de facto relationship with him. Pursuant to the rules of intestacy, the deceased’s surviving siblings would be entitled to the whole of his estate, unless the applicant could establish that she was the deceased’s de facto spouse.

The Court needed to determine whether the applicant was a “spouse” of the deceased as defined under legislation. The applicant claimed she was in a de facto relationship with the deceased that “has been in existence for a continuous period for at least two years” at his death.… Read More

Son’s claim to automatic inheritance defeated – Lesley McDonnell

LAMThe willmaker was survived by 4 adult children. When the willmaker died he left his $2.25 million estate to 3 of his 4 children. The excluded son, John contested his father’s will claiming his father had failed to make adequate provision for him in the Will. The executors of the Will opposed John’s claim for the following reasons:

(1) John had deliberately estranged himself from his father, and indeed his mother, for most of his life, causing them both great distress; and

(2) John had no need for provision out of his father’s estate, because of his and his wife’s existing personal wealth.… Read More

Family provision and former spouses – Lesley McDonnell

LAMIn NSW if a Will maker fails to make adequate provision in their Will for the proper maintenance, education and advancement in life of those entitled to such maintenance and support, a court is empowered to make an order for family provision to an eligible applicant. This applies equally where a person dies without leaving a Will and the rules of intestacy fail to adequately provide for an eligible applicant.  Only an “eligible person” as defined in the legislation can apply to the court for provision.  In NSW a category of “eligible person” includes a former wife or husband of the deceased.… Read More

Persuasion Versus Coercion – Lesley McDonnell

LAMTo make a valid Will a person must be of sound mind when the Will is made. Where a Will is the product of undue influence then it may be declared invalid if undue influence can be proven by the person alleging it. Undue influence goes beyond mere persuasion. “The essence of undue influence is coercion of the will so that the [Willmaker] does that he or she does not desire to do”. One recent Victorian case refused an application that there was undue influence exerted over the Willmaker when she made her Will.

In 2015 the deceased died at the age of 91 survived by 3 adult sons.… Read More

Left to chance your wishes may be left unfulfilled – Lesley McDonnell

LAMToo often people don’t devote the time they should to making a valid Will and keeping it up to date. Making a valid Will is one of the most important things a person can do to protect their loved ones. Once made, a Will should not be shoved to the back of a drawer and forgotten. Over time a Will needs to be reviewed and updated to reflect life changing events. You should seek professional advice to ensure your Will reflects your wishes and is in conformity with the law. The pitfalls of not doing so could mean an expensive court case as the following case demonstrates.… Read More

The Effect of a Computer Will – Lesley McDonnell

Increasingly more of us depend on the “on-line world” to communicate whether it be for business or pleasure or to stay connected with family and friends. Recently the Supreme Court of NSW considered whether a Computer Will left by the deceased before he died was intended to operate as his Will.

Prior to undergoing heart surgery, the deceased confided in his cousin that if anything should happen to him, he had made a Will and it was saved on his computer. When the deceased subsequently died widespread searches failed to locate a signed will amongst the deceased’s personal papers however 2 USB sticks were located.… Read More