Changes to inheritance laws are coming

Changes to the law proposed- may disadvantage those left out of family member’s wills.

Currently in Victoria if a family member who was left out of a  Will challenged it, then they would have some chance of success provided that the deceased had an obligation to provide for them.  This could include domestic partners, stepchildren, and carers and even family members who did not get on well with the deceased for whatever reason but the deceased had a moral duty to provide for them.

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Recently there has been a move to change the law to a adopt a stricter approach when it comes to contesting a Will.  There is a Parliamentary Bill being presented at the moment seeking to make way for this change and it appears that law makers are taking a hard line approach – primarily to stop adult children from challenging their parents’ Wills.

What this means is that if parents decide not make a provision for one of their children in their will, then legally they can avoid any responsibility to that child, grandchild or stepchild. Therefore, when a parent states that they will leave everything to their favorite  footy team or charity, they could in fact do so and leave the child, grandchild or stepchild without any legal recourse.   However, if the minor or adult child was wholly or partially dependent on the deceased at the time of death, then that child will still have the ability to contest the Will even  under the proposed changes.

PROBLEMS WITH NEW LAW BEING INTRODUCED:

Examples of where adult children would be disadvantaged by the proposed changes include the following:   (Source: Law Institute of Victoria)

·        A farmer with three daughters and one son leaves his property to his son, making no provision for his daughters.   Under the new law they have no right to make a claim unless they were financially dependent at the time of death.

·        A 19 year old youth, living away from home and unemployed, cannot make a claim because he is not financially dependent on his parent, although he can’t get a job.

·        An adult child, living with her grandmother (as her mother has mental health issues) would have the same problem.  If the mother dies, but does not leave any provision for the daughter, the daughter may not be able to make any claim or contest the will if she was not dependent on her mother at the time of death.

·        An adult woman is not financially dependent on her father when he dies, and he leaves the majority of his estate to a charity.   Shortly after his death, she is diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and is unable to work. She would be unable to make a claim under the proposed new laws as technically she was not wholly or partially dependent on him at the date of his death.

As you can see this could be a controversial new law if it is passed.  As it stands presently there is a large class of people that can challenge Wills in Victoria  if the deceased had a moral duty to provide for them, even if they are not related in blood.

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