Did you know the Court has the power to make an order when it considers ‘Adequate Provision’ has not been made?

Blended families are a way of life. It is not uncommon for relationships to blossom with a new partner, and existing children from previous relationships becoming part of those new beginnings.

In the recent decision of Grimsley v Paul [2021] QSC 78, the Queensland Supreme Court was faced with a common scenario that needed independent and judicial resolution.

In this matter, a couple found love at a time when they both had children from previous relationships. Their success in cellars and real estate resulted in a substantial estate.  The mother passed away over 14 years ago, leaving the majority of her estate to her new husband (who by that stage she had been married to for over 30 years) and not to any of her children or step-children.  The subsequent death of that husband in 2019 led to these proceedings.

His decision to provide for his step-daughter 5% of his $4,400,000 estate (whilst providing more for one of his biological children) was a subject of contention.

The Court specifically referred to previous judgements that referenced disentitling conduct of a claimant, and noted that in contrast, a Court ought not counteract a decision of the will-maker for a child’s ‘good behaviour’ (i.e. reward that behaviour).

As a large estate, the Court recognised the slightly different approach it could take, as the nature and extent of the estate allowed greater room for considering the competition elements between the claimant step-child and the biological son.  As with all decisions in this field, the reference to the needs of the step-child (financially and beyond) was a considerable factor – including her arthritis, surgery for her shoulder and knees, inability to work, chronic autoimmune disease, and existence on an aged care pension.

In this scenario, the Court ultimately determined that rather than receiving $215,000 from the $4,400,000 estate, an order of $750,000 was more appropriate. Needless to say, for the step-child to even commence these proceedings, let alone proceed to trial, her expenses were extensive and required access to funds to be eligible. Similarly, the Executor and Estate have increased costs in responding to this claim.

Interestingly, this particular case is evidence that on some occasions, it will not have a negative impact if that same child had already inherited close to $500,000 from her biological father, nor that those funds seemed to have been wasted (whether as a result of drug use or other circumstances), as her ongoing need for health care, suitable accommodation and the fact that her mother’s entire estate was given to her new partner (rather than her children) outweighed these other factors.

The judgement of the Court upon hearing all of the particular facts and circumstances of this case, included that a wise and just step-parent would have recognised a moral claim in the stepchild to maintenance or support from an estate which was derived, in whole or in part, from the stepchild’s biological parent.

For further information or advice, business succession reviews and updates, contact:

Tammy Parsons, Senior Associate or The Private Wealth Team at Rouse Lawyers.

Ph: 07 3648 9900

Em: [email protected]