The clients were adult children and contacted us to ascertain whether they could contest the Will of their late father (“the Deceased”). The children were the Deceased’s next of kin, as he died leaving no spouse surviving him. The clients were extremely distressed when they discovered that the Deceased had left his entire estate, including his house, to a friend, who was also named as Executor of his Will. The main asset of the estate was the Deceased’s home, which was valued at approximately $1.5 million.
The nature of the Deceased’s relationship with the friend, the Executor and sole beneficiary of the estate (“the Beneficiary”), was unclear. The clients had never met the Beneficiary, however, were aware of who she was through brief conversations with their father over the years.
The Beneficiary took a hard stance against any negotiations throughout the matter. She did not want the terms of the Will altered to make any provision for the Deceased’s children, and initially made a settlement offer of $20,000 to each of our clients in hope they would “go away”. This offer was swiftly rejected by our clients upon our advice.
Leading up to the mediation of the matter, we prepared detailed holistic evidence of each of our clients, which amongst other matters, showed our clients’ each had a very close, caring and loving father/child relationship with the Deceased and were heavily involved in each other’s lives. Our investigations and research was extensive and led us to recovering evidence from other witnesses that further strengthened our clients case. Evidence was also obtained from other witnesses.
Our strong evidence prepared for our clients put them in the best position to negotiate with the Beneficiary at the mediation conference. It appeared the Beneficiary’s initial hard stance had softened as a result of our clients’ evidence. We were able to negotiate a settlement on terms that the estate property would be sold, and the sale proceeds (less legal costs) would be split 65:35 in favour of the children of the deceased. The estate was to pay the legal costs of both the Beneficiary and claimant children. This was a successful outcome, which resulted in the children of the Deceased receiving a significant share of their late father’s estate, given they had been left out of his Will completely. The matter did not have to proceed to a Court hearing, which was important to the clients as they were concerned about not coping emotionally throughout a lengthy Court process. The children were content with their provision and once the matter finalised, they were able to properly grieve the loss of their father and move forward with their lives.