Widow fights for multi million dollar estate

2-December-2010 Guardianship By admin

After 30 years of marriage what would you expect from your husband’s estate? When your husband has a $15 million estate probably quite a bit.

In this fascinating case a widow turned to the courts for help in receiving a greater share of the estate. The case was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald on Monday 29 November 2010. This followed a decision of Associate Justice Macready on 25 November 2010 in determining a Family Provisions claim by the Wife against her late Husband’s Estate. (Hoolahan v Scali [2010] NSWSC 1349) It is helpful to note that there were also 4 adult surviving children.

The late Husband died of cancer at age 63 leaving an estate of approximately $15 million.

The late husband left a Will which provided his wife with $100,000 and an annual stipend of $45,000 (indexed) until aged 70 and then decreasing to $40,000 (indexed) and after 75 the sum of $25,000 (indexed) until death together with the reimbursement of her residential outgoings. The deceased held the matrimonial home as joint tenants with his wife so this property became the wife’s upon his passing without going through the Estate. The wife also had the benefit of past contributions for her benefit to the superannuation fund made by the deceased. The matrimonial home had an estimated value of $900,000.

The majority of the Trustees of the Superannuation fund decided in January 2010 to pay the death benefit of the late husband of approximately $1,000,000 to the Estate rather than to the wife. The wife had an additional $700,000 of superannuation benefits in her own name. The wife was 59 at time of judgment and according to the life tables had a 29 year life expectancy. The wife had lived with her late husband for 35 years which included a 30 year marriage.

Comment from Mark Streeter Sydney Lawyer

The court found that there was a large estate and the provision for the wife was ‘minimal’. Having regard to substantial evidence, the standard of living and the lifestyle enjoyed by the wife, the Court was invited by the plaintiff to make additional and ‘appropriate provision’. Accordingly, in lieu of the indexed annuity in the Will, the Court decided that an appropriate provision was:

  1. a bequest of a property estimated value of $3 million
  2. a bequest of the deceased’s boat – (a 2005 SeaRay Sedan Bridge boat estimate of $450,000)
  3. a legacy of $4 million

The balance of the estate was to remain in the Trust established by the Will and provided for benefits to the 4 surviving adult children and their children.

This decision is a reminder of the legal implications when writing your will. Wills are intended to represent your intentions. But this will was also seen as an attempt to continue to control the family after his death. As a result the wife and children have been drawn into a legal battle. Fighting over wills can divide families. It also makes personal information public.

Having a will makes very good sense. However having a lawyer’s assistance in creating your will can help reduce the chance of it being contested in the courts.

Streeterlaw are experts in all Will Dispute matters. For further information or to discuss your personal circumstances and how we can help you, call us on 8197 0105 or email advice@streeterlaw.com.au.

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