In the matter of Stockwell v Beaumont; O’Donnell v Beaumont  NSWSC 1811 the Supreme Court of New South Wales allowed a claim by the deceased’s adult child and also one of his former wives.
The deceased died aged 79. He had been married three times but only had children with his second wife. He had three children, all of whom were adults at the time the deceased passed away. He was married to his third wife, Margaret, who was one of the claimants for 10 years.
The deceased made a Will dated 1 October 2007 in which he made his youngest daughter, Samantha, his executor and left the whole of the estate to her.
The deceased’s second eldest child, Nina, who was estranged from the deceased at the time of his death, made a claim on the deceased’s Estate. Nina was aged 50 at the time of the hearing. She had a close relationship with her father as a child and maintained regular contact with both her parents after their separation and divorce. Nina moved interstate after marrying but maintained phone contact with her father approximately once. She returned after her first child was born and lived in a suburb near her father. She visited her father and Margaret once or twice a week after having living in her father’s house and caring for her grandmother whilst her father was overseas with Margaret. After Nina separated from her husband she again moved interstate but stayed in weekly contact with her father by telephone. Nina visited her father on a number of occasions but her father did not visit her as he said she lived too far away.
In 2006 Nina’s mother organised a 40th birthday party for Nina’s brother who had lived overseas for many years. He had a difficult relationship with the deceased but Nina’s mother was attempting to reconcile Nina’s brother with the deceased and they had spoken over the phone prior to his returning home for his 40th birthday. The deceased was invited to a family dinner the night before the party and the party. He did not turn up at the family dinner and when he was called, he said “he can’t be bothered coming and won’t be coming to the party either.”
Nina and her father did not speak again after this incident. Neither party contacted the other.
In the deceased’s Will he included a clause “I do not wish to leave any bequests to my son .. or my daughter Nina ..as they have treated me with total contempt over the years and deserve nothing from me.”
From 2007 Nina had enquired about her father’s wellbeing through her mother.
Margaret and the deceased did not have joint bank account. She contributed towards the running of the house and groceries throughout the marriage but they otherwise kept their finances separately. Margaret had moved into the deceased’s home which was sold in 1993 and Margaret and the deceased decided to buy a property in Cherrybrook. Margaret did not make any financial contribution to the property but had assumed the property would be purchased in her name. In 1994 Margaret found out the property was purchased only in the deceased’s name. Margaret confronted Graham and Margaret gave evidence that the deceased had said “I have left you over $300,000 in my Will. If anything happens to me you will be well provided for.
In 1997 Margaret and the deceased had an argument and the parties decided to separate. The parties agreed Margaret could keep her car and did not have to repay the deceased $8,000 she owed him for the car. She said there was no property settlement. It was, however, discovered from the deceased’s bank account that Margaret received a payment of $22,342.54. Margaret claimed she did seek a property settlement as she was relying on the deceased’s promise that she would receive $300,000 from his Estate.
The eldest child did not make a claim.
The value of the estate was $1,077,500. The major asset of the Estate was a property in which the sole beneficiary was living with her three children. The property was sold by the sole beneficiary just after the hearing.
There was no dispute that Samantha was entitled to the majority of the estate. However, due to the size of the estate the Court accepted that some provision should be made for Nina and Margaret.
Justice Kunc was satisfied that had Margaret received a family law settlement when the parties separated she would have received considerably more than she did.
Justice Kunc also found that Nina had a close relationship with her father until the time of the estrangement.
Although Samantha had a greater moral claim and greater need that Margaret and Samantha, Justice Kunc held that Nina should receive $200,000 to pay off her mortgage and Margaret should receive $150,000 to pay off her mortgage and provide a small buffer for contingencies as the size of the estate permitted their claims to be recognised.
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