Disinheriting Relatives Can Be a Recipe for Discord

You may have good reasons for writing close relatives out of your will but, as any lawyer will tell you, the consequence of doing so can be family discord after you are gone. That was certainly so in one case concerning a father who disinherited his daughter by his first marriage.

The man's will left the whole of his estate to his second wife and appointed her and one of his nieces as his executors. In a statement attached to the will he explained that he was leaving nothing to his daughter because she was not financially dependent on him. He stated that he had had no contact with her for years and that the father/daughter relationship had completely broken down.

Following his death, his daughter entered a caveat against the estate so that a grant of probate could not be sealed. Funds remained locked in the estate and could not be accessed to help pay for the care costs of the wife, who suffered from advanced dementia. The wife's daughter (the applicant) had funded the man's funeral and made up the shortfall in her mother's care costs from her own resources.

In granting the applicant an order removing the caveat, the judge hearing the claim observed that the man's daughter had taken no active steps to challenge the validity of her father's will. Her stance had resulted in a stalemate and an unjustified and unnecessary delay of over two years in the administration of the estate. That delay was unacceptable in that the wife, as sole beneficiary, was in undoubted financial need.

The High Court subsequently directed that, due to her incapacity, the man's wife be removed as executor of the estate and replaced by the applicant, as personal representative.

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