Estrangement leads to unsuccessful estate dispute

Publish Date: Jul 16, 2015

For families, estrangement is certainly a difficult experience, and one that can complicate a number of legal areas and lead to an estate dispute.

While it is possible for an estranged relative to contest an estate, they are required to prove to the courts that they have made a genuine attempt to reconcile the relationship prior to the deceased's passing.

This was recently seen in a case before the Court of Appeal of the NSW Supreme Court, in which a man appealed a judgment handed down by a lower court that denied his application for a family provision claim from his estranged mother's estate.

The man had been effectively estranged from his family since the early 1990s following his divorce and remarriage. Since that time, the man continued to live with no ongoing contact with his mother or two siblings, the main beneficiaries of her estate.

In 2010, the deceased prepared a letter, outlining her reasons for not including a provision for her son and her intention to instead leave the bulk of her estate to the two children she had remained in contact with.

As with all estrangement claims, the courts were required to consider whether or not the community standards at the time warranted the lack of provision contained within the will. The NSW Supreme Court confirmed the judgment of the lower court, and dismissed the man's appeal.

Does estrangement terminate a will-maker's obligation to the estranged?

While in the above case, the courts determined that the deceased was not obliged to provide for her estranged son, it is important to note this will not be true in every case. The courts have the discretion to decide whether or not a person ought to have made a provision, based on the prevailing community standards.

In many estrangement cases, the case will also hinge on whether or not the estranged made a legitimate effort to reconnect with the deceased prior to their passing, although this was not a feature of this appeal.

To learn more about how estrangement can affect a family provision claims, contact a wills and estates lawyer. They will be able to provide information on a case of estrangement and whether there are grounds for launching a claim for provision from a deceased's estate.

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