Deceased Estate Dispute

Problem

Mr Smith’s elderly father passed away, leaving behind him a will marked “Cancelled”. Mr Smith could not find any other will in his late father’s house. The estate was valued at approximately $1.4 million.

Pursuant to the will, Mr Smith and his son, Mr Smith Jr, were to share equally in the real property in the estate. Mr Smith’s daughter, Ms Smith, and a man named Mr Grey were to receive bequests of $5,000 each.

Solution

We were instructed by Mr Smith to apply for letters of administration of his father’s estate, on the basis that the will had been revoked by the words “Cancelled”.

The Supreme Court refused to accept the will was revoked without obtaining the consents of all beneficiaries named in the will.

Mr Smith’s two children, who were provided for in the will, refused to provide their consents, as they would receive nothing under the provisions of the Administration Act if the will was accepted as revoked.

Mr Smith then discovered that Mr Grey, a man who lived in the UK and who Mr Smith thought was his stepbrother, had in fact been adopted by Mr Smith’s father some 70 years previous. Mr Grey had not seen Mr Smith’s father since 1966.

As an adopted child, Mr Grey was deemed to have the same claim as a natural child for the purposes of the provisions of the Administration Act.

If the will was accepted as revoked, Mr Grey’s entitlement would have increased from $5,000 to $700,000.

Tang Legal commenced an Inheritance Act claim on behalf of Mr Smith, seeking greater provision than the 50% of the estate he would be entitled to if the will was accepted as revoked and the estate be transferred to Mr Smith and Mr Grey.

Outcome

After commencement of the Inheritance Act claim, we negotiated with Mr Grey’s lawyers and with Mr Smith Jr and Ms Smith, reaching a settlement with all parties in a Deed of Family Arrangement.

Mr Grey agreed to take only $50,000 from the estate, while Mr Smith was left with the balance of $1,350,000.