Can "friends with benefits" become friends with inheritance benefits?

Can an ex personal friend claim inheritance benefits from your estate if you die? In March 2014 the Supreme Court of New South Wales considered this question. In this case, a wealthy man died after a battle with cancer. He left his multi-million dollar estate to his second wife, Lisa,and their two children. His first wife, Adele, sought provision from the estate.

He had met Adele in the US in 1988 and they were married shortly afterwards. They divorced in 1995 and did not have a Family Court Property orders made at the time. The reason they divorced was that they could not agree on whether to permanently settle in Australia or the US. They had no children together. It seems that they both continued a close friendship after their divorce and Adele held hopes they would resume a romantic relationship. He made representations to her, her sister and her father that he would look after her. He married Lisa in 2009 and together they 2 children. At this time it seems his contact with Adele became infrequent.

In granting Adele provision, the judge considered relevant the fact that the estate was very large and in providing for her, Lisa and the children were still being taken care of. He also decided that the lack of fault or acrimony attached to the breakdown of the marriage, her ongoing friendship and the lack of a family law settlement were relevant factors in Adele’s favour. Adele had little financial means of her own. She was granted $200,000.00 from an overall estate of approximately $11,000,000,000.00

This case again highlights some of the factors a court will consider when a previous partner is seeking provision from an estate. It is also a timely reminder of the dangers of testators telling people that they will be looked after in the Will, but then not updating their Will.

It is also an important for anyone who has ended a relationship- whether it is a marriage or a de facto relationship- of the importance of having a formal property settlement. Even if the split is mutual and friendly, it is important to formalise the end of the relationship from a financial point of view. The Judge even commented that had there been a property settlement following the end of their relationship, the first wife would not have succeeded in making a claim against her ex-husband’s estate.

If you need to clarify your circumstances for either a separation or Will call Coutts Solicitors & Conveyancers on 1300 268 887.