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Estranged son successfully challenges Father’s will

Friday, July 19, 2019

The District Court in Cairns made a decision on 17 May 2019 to alter a father’s inheritance to his adult son via his will. The Court enlarged the payment to the son by a factor of five to $100,000.


Mr John Crowley passed away on 10 August 2018, leaving an estate just shy of $200,000. Mr Crowley had a will and in it, left:


  • $20,000 to his adult son
  • $20,000 to a friend and
  • the balance of around $160,000 to his sister who was also the executor of his will.

At the time of making his last will Mr Crowley made a written statement about his relationship with his son, presumably to justify his decision to leave him $20,000. The Court neatly summarised Mr Crowley’s statement as follows:


In it, [the deceased] said that the [son] had very little do with him in recent years and had been a great disappointment to him.  He expressed the view that the [son] had treated him badly and had been uncooperative in communications.  He said that he had provided to the [son] in the past and was disappointed that the [son] had a sense of entitlement to receive his estate on his death.  He also expressed the view that he thought the [son] had acted in a way to punish the deceased for past mistakes, but that that was based on incorrect information.  He said that the [son] had not been available to discuss this.”


The son challenged the will on the basis that Mr Crowley did not make adequate provision for him in the will. The son suffered from multiple medical conditions and was on a disability pension. His assets included $7,000 in a bank account and some $5,000 worth of personal effects; modest by any standards. The son contented that his father had a moral duty to provide him with an inheritance greater than the $20,000 disposition in the will.


The deceased’s sister was obliged (as executors are) to defend the will and oppose the son’s claim. After a lengthy Court process the parties conducted a mediation where they reached an agreement to stop the proceedings. By the time the matter reached mediation however, the son had incurred over $35,000 in legal fees. The estate agreed to pay those costs as part of the settlement.


The Court acknowledged the agreement of the parties and accepted it, allowing the son the agreed amount of $100,000 from the estate plus his $35,000 in legal costs; nearly seven (7) times the amount the deceased originally intended to give him.


If you would like further information on disputing or contesting wills in Queensland please contact us to discuss the matter. We have offices located in Brisbane North and South, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast.

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