Assisted a Widow / Executor of the Estate to defend a Family Provision claim brought by an Adult Child of the Deceased

The client was the wife of the Deceased.  They were married only 9 months prior to the death of the Deceased and met a mere 3 months prior to their marriage.  Their relationship was cut short only due to the Deceased’s untimely death. The client was the Executor of the Deceased’s Will, which was being contested by the Deceased’s adult child. She sought our advice in relation to defending the claim and upholding the terms of the Will.

The main assets of the estate were the matrimonial home, which at the time of death had an estimated value of $2.7 million, and cash at bank in the sum of approximately $550,000.  The Deceased’s Will provided a gift of $50,000 to his adult son, and the balance of the estate was gifted to our client.

The Deceased’s relationship with his son was strained.  There was history of threats and violence by the son towards both the Deceased and our client. An outline of such events was included in a Testamentary Statement of the Deceased, which was kept with his Will and explained reasons for the modest provision the Deceased gifted to his son. 

The son’s evidence sought to deny the relationship between the client and the Deceased, despite their marriage, and attacked the client’s character and intentions in her relationship with the Deceased. 

The matter proceeded to a mediation, at which the son attended, however did not do so in good faith and willing to negotiate. The son considered himself entitled to the matrimonial home and rejected all reasonable settlement offers put by our client. 

As a result, the matter was prepared to go to a Court Hearing.  We prepared detailed evidence for our client, which included documentation, videos made by the Deceased and numerous conversations between the Deceased and our client in which he expressed his intentions to write his son out of his Will due to his consistently bad behaviour towards him and our client, and his disrespect towards the Deceased and our client’s relationship.  We compiled evidence from various other witnesses who  had seen firsthand the son’s violent behaviour toward the Deceased and had conversations with the Deceased regarding his intentions to disinherit his son.  We investigated gifts which had been given by the Deceased to his son throughout his lifetime via direct transfers, loans and distributions from a Family Trust, which added up to over $500,000.

After this evidence was served on the son, prior to the date of the final Court hearing, we were able to negotiate a settlement out of Court, in which the son agreed to  accept payment of $325,000 from the estate, plus his legal costs. This was a successful result for our client, in what was a difficult case. It meant our client was able to retain the matrimonial home, which was her priority as it is what the Deceased intended for her. She was able to cut ties with the difficult son, focus on grieving the loss of her husband and moving on with her life without the additional emotional stress and financial strain of Court proceedings.