It is an agreed fact that Will Disputes are on the rise, not only in New South Wales, but all over Australia.
There have been many serious discussions on the reasons for the increase in Disputing Wills. One of the most relevant research papers on the subject, “Every Player Wins a Prize?, Family Provision Applications and bequest to Charity”, published by The Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Non Profit Studies, Queensland University of Technology Brisbane. This research paper nominated a number of areas that contributed to the increase including:
- Changes in the concept of family, including multiple marriages with partners, children and step-children each eligible for an interest in the Estate of the deceased.
This includes the increased recognition under the Succession Act, of a wide range of relationships including de facto relationships, same sex partnerships and recognition of people in a close personal relationship with the deceased, who are all able to make a claim on their Estate
This increased recognition can clearly be seen in the widening of the ‘eligible person’ definition in the Succession Act, which allows the following groups of people to make a claim on a deceased Estate:
– The current spouse of the deceased;
– A former spouse of the deceased;
– The current de facto of the deceased;
– A child of the deceased;
– A person who was at any particular time, wholly or partly dependent on the deceased and was either a grandchild of the deceased or a member of the deceased’s household;
– A person who was living in a close personal relationship with the deceased at the time of their death, meaning a relationship between two adult persons, whether or not related by family, who are living together, one or each of them providing the other with domestic support and personal care.
- The increase in the number of elderly and the increase in the number of “grown-up” dependent children still living at home.
The days of children leaving home at 18, seem to be receding into the past with a majority of children remaining at home, and dependent, in their 20s and 30s.
- Changes in expectations and values with a larger number of people expecting a benefit under the Will and challenging the Will if they are not included as a beneficiary. In conjunction with this expectation, is a decrease in the way in which challenging a Will is now viewed as no longer outside societal norms.
- Changes in the legal environment where the definition of eligible persons to challenge a Will has been widened. In addition, the general rule that any legal costs of a challenge to the Will are to be paid by the Estate, whether successful or not.
- Changes in the level of wealth in Australia meaning that the value of Estates is larger than ever. In addition, the increase in real estate value in Australia has led to a common scenario where the family home has a very high value.
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. Call today for an appointment with Graeme Heckenberg Probate lawyer at Sydney Probate Lawyers.
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