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Time is of the Essence

October 14, 2015

If you wish to contest an Estate then you must do so within certain time-frames. A recent case from the Supreme Court of NSW has highlighted this fact. 

 

It involved two step-sisters and the Estate of Mr Stanley Harold Norton. Stanley was the step-father of Lynette O'Brien, who was left with only $5,000 from his Estate. Most of the Estate passed under Mr Norton's Will to his daughter - Belinda Luscombe. 

 

Stanley died in 2005, and Belinda was his Executor. By January 2006, Belinda and the Estate lawyers had arranged for the final distribution of the Estate.

 

In 2013, Belinda and Lynette had a falling out on Facebook in relation to the house Belinda had inherited from Stanley. Lynette wrongly assumed that at some point in the future she would receive half of the sale proceeds of the house, basing this view on discussions she had in the past with her late Mother and Stanley. Belinda was surprised to hear of this view and confirmed that the Estate was fully distributed and that the $5,000 payment was all that Lynette was to receive.

 

Lynette then set about obtaining a copy of Stanley's Will and legal advice, before commencing proceedings in early 2015.

 

The problem for Lynette was this - despite being an eligible person to make a claim, and having grounds to show that she was not adequately provided for by Stanley, she was simply out of time.

 

The case was heard under former legislation, which stipulates that claims must be made within 18 months of the death of the deceased unless there is sufficient cause to extend the time-frame. Lynette could not provide a sufficient basis for the Court to extend this time.

 

As a result her case was dismissed and she was ordered to pay her step-sister's costs. No doubt an expensive and stressful experience.

 

The current legislation only allows for claims to be made within 12 months of death unless you can show sufficient cause to extend the time. Consequently it is even more important to be aware of you rights and to obtain advice as early as possible if you feel that you have not been provided for adequately.

 

To read the case in full, go to: https://www.caselaw.nsw.gov.au/decision/560387f7e4b0517a97280de7

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