Is my Will binding in all circumstances? 19 Jul 2013

Many people do not realise that a Will, even if signed correctly, can still be challenged after a person dies.

It is important, therefore, to give careful consideration as to how to distribute your property on death, to limit the risk of a bitter (and potentially expensive) dispute between family members or loved ones after you die.

Who do I need to provide for in my Will?

Under the Family Protection Act you owe a duty to provide “adequate provision” for the proper maintenance and support of your:

In some circumstances, you may also owe a duty to:

What is adequate provision?

Each case depends on its own facts. The Court looks at a range of factors including:

For example, the amount that you will need to provide for your young children differs to that of adult children. Your duty to provide for children who have regularly assisted you in your senior years may differ to a child who you have been estranged from for the last 30 years.

Where you have a duty to provide for more than 1 person, thought will need to be given as to how you can provide for them all.

 What can the Court do if I have not made adequate provision?

The Court can adjust what provision is made for the person claiming under your Will. If the Court does this, this will mean that the share of others under your Will will be reduced.

Will the Court always make changes?

No, not necessarily. The Courts recognise a person’s right to distribute their assets as they see fit. They will only intervene to the extent necessary to provide the person claiming with adequate provision, taking into account the factors set out above.

What about my spouse or partner? Are there any other ways they can claim against my property?

On your death, your spouse/partner is entitled to choose to either:

If, in your Will, you give your spouse/partner less than half of what they would be entitled to under the Property (Relationships) Act, there is a significant risk that they will choose to make a claim under that Act, rather than elect to take under your Will.

To limit the risk, you and your partner/spouse would need to enter into a Contracting Out Agreement limiting your partner/spouse’s right to claim half your relationship property on death.

Are there any other ways my will can be attacked?

Your Will could also be attacked if you made a promise during your lifetime to provide for someone in your Will who carried out services or work for you. The Court could declare that that person has a right to be provided for from your estate.

Services can include not only things done for you during your lifetime, but also companionship, affection and emotional support (if it exceeds what would be normally expected of that person).

The amount of payment will not necessarily be what you promised them. The Court will consider:

What can I do to prevent claims against my estate?

The most important thing you can do is to discuss your wishes, your personal circumstances and your property with your lawyer at the time you are making your Will. This is especially important if you have children from a previous relationship to your current one or if you do not want to equally provide for your children.

Other things you can do include:

Should you need any assistance with this, or with any other matter, please contact Paul Cowey at Parry Field Lawyers (348-8480).