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Daughters challenge carer over dad’s will

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In the Supreme Court case of Hyatt v Anor v Cavalea (8 August 2011), the deceased left his entire estate to his friend/carer. He made no provision for his two adult daughters and they challenged his Will.

Although you are free to leave your assets to the beneficiaries of your choice, in some circumstances a Will can be contested. In this case, the adult daughters of the Willmaker challenged his Will claiming their father had a moral obligation to provide for them.

The sole beneficiary under the Will, Mr Cavalea, moved in with the deceased in 1999, initially as a tenant. Mr Cavalea paid rent for approximately one year and then lived in the deceased’s house for a further 11 years, rent free.

When the deceased’s health declined in 2003, Mr Cavalea became his carer until his death in 2008. Mr Cavalea drove him to medical appointments and assisted with cooking and washing and dressing the deceased. Importantly, the care Mr Cavalea provided allowed the deceased to continue to live in his own property and to visit his holiday home on a regular basis.

Both daughters maintained a good relationship with their father. The youngest daughter lived in the USA. When she was financially able, she paid for her father’s airfare to allow him to visit. She prepared an area in her home for her father to permanently live with her family. He refused this offer.

The Court was satisfied that their father had a responsibility to make provision for his daughters, who established that not only did they give their father assistance worthy of recognition, but they also had a need for maintenance and support.

Out of the estate of $585,000, the three parties’ legal fees were estimated at $300,000. The Court awarded the eldest daughter $110,000 and the younger daughter $140,000. The carer retained the balance of the estate. The question of who pays the costs remains unresolved.

It is important for everyone to consider carefully what beneficiaries they should provide for and to have an updated Will that is tailored to their individual circumstances.

If you have any queries about your Will or Estate Planning or an estate dispute, please contact one of our Wills and Estates lawyers.

Author: Andrea Olsson, Accredited Wills and Estates Specialist

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