Where there’s a Will there’s a way

The number of will disputes reaching the Supreme Court has shot up by almost 60 per cent since 2005, with blended families, entitled grandchildren and burgeoning estate values driving up the number of claims. While the death rate in NSW has increased by about 10 per cent over the past decade, fights over the family fortune rose by 59 per cent between 2005 and 2013. Statistics from the Supreme Court of NSW show 919 will disputes were heard last year but legal experts say the real figure is much higher as about 95 per cent of claims are settled through mediation before they reach court. A growing number of will disputes involve grandchildren such as the recent Supreme Court case in which 46-year-old Robert Wilcox made a $1.1 million claim on his grandfather's $5.5 million rural estate, which had been left to his mother. Despite not having worked in agriculture since 2001, the court found he was entitled to some money and ordered he be paid $107,000 to clear a tax debt. In the 2013 Supreme Court case, Jagoe v Maguire, John Jagoe brought a claim against the will of his late wife, who had left her $1.3 million estate to her four children from her first marriage. The judgment by Justice Philip Hallen refers to family members abusing each other in court, bickering over a $10,000 Datsun and one beneficiary suffering mental illness attributed to ''inter-family conflict and the siblings arguing''. 'Emotions during the case were, understandably, raw and painful,'' he wrote. ''Hopefully, the termination of the proceedings by judgment will settle the hostility that has rocked the family since the death of the deceased.'' Wills and estates disputes can become very messy, especially when new spouses, former spouses and stepchildren are involved. The increase in claims is also fuelled by greater public awareness of legal rights under the Family Provision Act. People didn't know they could challenge a will and didn't know they had rights and now they do. The reality is there are a lot of bad wills.'' An increase in remarriage and second families has also spurred on the growth in claims as well as the value of the potential spoils. There has been an enormous increase in the size of estates over the past 10 years. Now due to the value of property and superannuation there's more to fight over so there is more reason for people to pursue claims if they feel they have been treated unfairly'. Read the Original Article from the Sydney Morning Herald published on May 10, 2014

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