A Will is one of the most important legal documents you will make and must be tailored in accordance with your individual needs. It sets out your wishes for the distribution of your estate and provides directions as to who is appointed as your executor and how they should manage your estate.
The failure to execute a Will before your death will mean that you die ‘intestate’, leaving your assets to be distributed in accordance with legislative provisions (in Queensland, this is pursuant to the Succession Act 1981 (QLD) (the Act) – other States have similar legislation), which may not be in accordance with your wishes.
Further, a failure to seek professional legal advice to prepare a Will, attempting to draft your own Will, or neglecting to make sufficient provision for your spouse, descendants and dependants may result in a Family Provision Claim against your estate.
What is a Family Provision Claim?
Family Provision Claims are made under Part IV of the Act and are the most common type of challenge to a Will. The Act provides that whether a person dies testate (having a Will) or intestate (without a Will), the court may, in its discretion, apply such provision as the court thinks fit having regard to the status of the individual making the claim and whether they qualify as a dependant on the deceased.
Who can make a Family Provision Application?
A deceased person’s spouse, child or dependant is entitled to bring a Family Provision Application seeking proper support and maintenance from the estate of the deceased. Each potential claimant will be considered in detail below.
At law, a person’s spouse is entitled to a distribution from the estate if they are the husband, wife, de-facto partner or a registered partner of the deceased.
The definition of child under the Act is broad. Children who may bring a Family Provision Claim include not only the deceased’s natural or legitimate children, but also step-children and adopted children. Foster children may bring a claim if they can establish that they were wholly or partially dependent on the deceased and were a member of the deceased’s household.
A claimant may also fall within the category of a Dependant, which is defined as “any person who was wholly or substantially maintained or supported … by that deceased person at the time of the person’s death being:
- a parent of that deceased person; or
- the parent of a surviving child under the age of 18 years of that deceased person; or
- a person under the age of 18 years.”
Accordingly, a dependant may be a parent of the deceasd person.
So – if a Family Provision Claim can be made in any instance, what’s the point in writing a Will?
In the event of a Family Provision Claim, the Will is one of the primary documents upon which a court will rely, as this document sets out the testamentary intentions of the deceased.
While there is no concrete method of preventing a Family Provision Claim being lodged – there are various methods by which the chances of a claim being lodged, or of such a claim being successful, can be decreased.
When a court considers a Family Provision Claim, the deceased’s views will be considered. However, there is no guarantee that the court will uphold the wishes contained within the Will if the claimant can demonstrate the need for proper support or maintenance. It is, therefore, paramount to consider every possibility which may arise, and to draft a Will that considers all potential claimants and provides security and protection to ensure your estate is distributed as you intend.
If you are excluding any of the potential claimants from receiving a distribution under the Will, or effecting a distribution that is less than what may be considered by a court to be “proper entitlement”, it is important that you record the reasons for such exclusion or reduction with either a clause included in the Will or alternatively executing a signed statement to be kept with the Will. There are various supplementary documents which can be prepared by your solicitor setting out the reasons a lesser provision was made for potential claimaints.
If you would like to speak to our estate planning team about drawing a Will or potential Family Provision Claims, please contact our office on 07 5574 3560 or via email at email@example.com.