A recent Court of Appeal decision, initially brought by a son seeking a greater share of his late mother’s estate, found that the moral duty to provide a child with proper maintenance and support does not necessarily amount to equal treatment under a Will.

The Court of Appeal has since dismissed the son’s case because it was found that his mother’s Will had adequately discharged the moral duty owed to him.

The Court’s primary objective when it comes to the interpretation of a Will is to properly give effect to the deceased’s last wishes. In this case the Court was also required to determine whether the Will discharged the mother’s moral duty to provide for her son.

The son asserted that he deserved more from the estate than what the Will had provided to him because he alleged that he had taken it upon himself to support the family farm asset prior to its sale.

He also mentioned that he provided extra care to his mother in her later years, and that this ought to be a relevant consideration for the Court. Unsurprisingly, his siblings were quick to dispute these facts. The son’s siblings emphasised that he had received financial support from their mother during her lifetime following the breakdown of his marriage.

The High Court concluded that the Will, despite seeming “unfair” in its differential treatment of the siblings, did discharge the mother’s moral duty to provide proper maintenance and support to her children upon her passing.

The Court of Appeal agreed with the High Court, going on to say that the son who was challenging the Will was actually given assistance by his mother in other ways during his her life.

There is a high threshold in finding a breach of a Will maker’s moral duty. If you are a beneficiary who feels like you have been treated unfairly in a Will, or if you are making a Will and wanting to confirm its validity at law, it pays to talk to legal professional for advice in this area.

Leading law firms committed to helping clients cost-effectively will have a range of fixed-price Initial Consultations to suit most people’s needs in quickly learning what their options are.  At Rainey Collins we have an experienced team who can answer your questions and put you on the right track.

Shaun Cousins and Anjali Rajiv