Small Estates and Contesting Wills

In NSW, Courts are reluctant to allow persons to contest a will where the size of the Estate is small.

Such cases simply eat into an already small pie and the Courts try to discourage these matters proceeding.

On 29 October 2015, Justice Hallen handed down a decision in Chapman v Ingold - a case involving an Estate that his Honour described as "tiny".

The word "tiny" is used in a relative sense, with the Estate having a net value of about $150,000. Although this may be a substantial amount of money to many people, it is not in terms of Estate claims. The costs of the proceedings alone were estimated to be approximately $50,000.

The case involved the death of an elderly lady, who left her entire Estate to her grandson - leaving her daughters with nothing.

On face value, a lay person would find this unfair. But the daughters could not show any substantial need for a benefit under the Will, whereas the grandson has mental health issues and limited means. This combined with the "tiny" nature of the Estate resulted in the Court dismissing the application.

It serves as a reminder that "fairness" is not relevant to family provision claims and that small estates should be treated with caution.

Full case available at NSW Caselaw: https://www.caselaw.nsw.gov.au/decision/56318e04e4b003c5681fa25d

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