It is a very stressful time when a relative or close friend dies, but this can be made even worse if you find out that you have been unexpectedly left out of a Will.  There are a number of different ways that you can apply to the Court for a share of an estate.

1.  Promises

If you have performed a service or have done work for the deceased, and they promised to reward you in their Will, but didn’t, then you can make a claim against the estate.  An example of this situation is if you have provided substantial unpaid care for a person, on the basis that they promised to give you a share in their property after their death. 

The work provided and the promise to reward the worker in the Will must be related to each other, so it would not be enough if you were doing the work out of the goodness of your heart and then decided that you deserved payment.  The amount awarded by the Court will be confined to reasonable compensation for the work actually done for the deceased.

 2.  Challenge the Will

When a person makes a Will they must be of sound mind, and must not have been unduly influenced or fooled into making any provisions in the Will.  If you think that the deceased was not of sound mind, then you may be able to challenge the Will.  Medical evidence would be needed to establish their condition.  Once that has happened the estate would be divided according to the last valid Will.  If there was no previous Will, then there is a situation that is called an intestacy.  In an intestacy, property is divided between surviving spouses or de facto partners, children, parents and siblings according to set rules. 

3.  Family protection 

The law imposes a moral duty on people to adequately provide for the proper maintenance and support of certain people entitled to provision from their estate.  This includes the deceased’s spouse, de facto partner, children, dependent stepchildren, grandchildren and parents. 

The duty to provide for the above people is not limited to those who are in financial need.  Many well off claimants have received substantial payments from the estate for non-financial reasons, such as to acknowledge that a person belongs in the family.  The amount of payment varies dramatically between cases as it depends on all of the circumstances of the particular case.

4.  Relationship property 

A spouse or de facto partner of a deceased person can claim half of all relationship property, under the law that deals with the division of relationship property.  An exception to this is if the couple had signed a property sharing agreement during their relationship.