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Contesting a Will in Australia – It’s Just Not Cricket

CONTESTED WILL & CLAIM AGAINST RICHIE BENAUD’S ESTATE BY FIRST WIFE AND SON

The voice of cricket and former Australian Cricket Captain, Richie Benaud, has had a claim made against his estate by his first wife and son, showing when it comes to contesting a Will, it can happen to anyone.

Most Australians would know Richie’s wife, Daphne, who has been made a household name along with her former husband, no doubt fuelled by the comedic genius of Billy Birmingham and his 12th Man recordings. However, Richie’s first wife Marcia and one of his son’s have brought proceedings in the NSW Supreme Court, seeking particulars of the estate assets from wife Daphne and making a claim against the estate. They were divorced in 1967.

The case follows a string of recent high profile families where disgruntled family members have started the process of contesting a Will and ended up in Court. Some examples:-

• The family of Mary Gaudron, former High Court Judge, were recently involved in Court proceedings;

• Justice Byrne of the Supreme Court Qld contested the Will of his parent in recent proceedings;

• Ex NSW Premier Neville Wran – his family are involved in a huge Supreme Court matter involving millions of dollars;

The fact that the claims involve legal families including Judges, as well as such savvy and high profile personalities such as Richie Benaud shows that no family is immune from these types of claims being brought by disgruntled family members. Contesting a Will can happen to any family.

It highlights the fact that there are problems and different situations in all types of families and that, in many cases, the wishes of the deceased are not actually being honoured due to a variety of different reasons. The high profile cases provide an interesting insight into the dynamics of the families and the conduct of parents and their partners and children. These very public family disputes lay open the various family secrets and expose in great detail the relationships involved and the conduct of the various family members.

It is sometimes overlooked by people bringing claims that the Court proceedings are public documents of record and are open to the public and the media for scrutiny. Although some of the recent high profile cases involve estates that are worth many millions of dollars, the same principles and issues apply to smaller estates of a more modest nature. The simple fact of the matter is that all families should look carefully at their estate planning and ensure that their Will is up to date and accurately reflects their wishes in relation to how they want their assets to be distributed to their family members.

Whilst it is impossible to stop people from bringing claims against the estate, with specialist assistance from estate planning lawyers, it is possible to craft a Will and structure your assets so as to minimise the threat of any claim being brought by disgruntled family members. Although such an exercise may involve spending some money for legal costs to achieve this aim, this expense is nothing compared to the hundreds of thousands of dollars that can be incurred in dealing with contested estates in the Supreme Court.

Attwood Marshall have the largest Wills & Estates department in the Gold Coast and Northern Rivers area and have lawyers who work exclusively in this area of law. We are offering an obligation free initial appointment for any new enquiries. Please contact our Department Manager Donna Tolley on direct line 07 5506 8241 or email dtolley@attwoodmarshall.com.au or free call 1800 621 071.

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Lucy McPherson

Lucy McPherson

  • Senior Associate
  • Estate Litigation
  • Direct line: 07 5506 8255
  • Mobile: 0400 230 522