In the case of Mead v Lemon  WASC 71 handed down 26 February 2015 by Master Sanderson in the Western Australian Supreme Court the deceased’s daughter was successful in having her $3 million inheritance increased to $25 million.
The deceased’s estate in this matter may have exceeded $1 billion but the amount in dispute was an undistributed amount of only $45,272,231.18!
The Plaintiff’s claim was brought under s6(1) of the Family Provision Act 1972 (WA) which (like other similar legislation around Australia) allows the Court to make appropriate orders concerning the distribution of the estate where the deceased’s will “is not such as to make adequate provision from his estate for the proper maintenance, support, education or advancement” of the person entitled to make a claim under the legislation.
His Honour applied the “community expectation” test and described that test as “what amount should be left to a person in the plaintiff’s position to meet community expectations.”
His Honour went on to say: “Whether or not I am the ideal person to judge community expectations must be open to doubt. No doubt at one end of the scale a section of the community would believe the plaintiff should get nothing beyond what her father left her in the will. At the other end of the scale there would be those who could see no reason why the estate ought not be split equally between the deceased’s children. The majority view no doubt falls between those two extremes.”
His Honour held: “What can be said about community expectation is that most people would expect the plaintiff to be more than adequately provided for. Given the size of the estate and the lack of limitation on any award it is difficult to believe a majority would not see it appropriate to set up the plaintiff for life. How members of the community would settle on a figure is a rather more difficult question. In my view an award of $25 million would not fall outside the reasonable expectation of most members of the community.”
At the end of his judgment Master Sanderson commented: “When the $25 million is paid to the plaintiff the rest of the residuary estate will pass to the second and third defendants. They will get about $10 million each less perhaps $1 million for costs. That is on top of the $400 million they already have; and they can rest easy in the knowledge their half-sister will be financially secure for the rest of her life” (His Honour noted earlier in his judgment that the second and third defendants would receive about $24 million every year in interest alone on their share of their father’s estate!).
Strict time limits apply in relation to will disputes and inheritance claims. If you have been left out of a deceased’s will or if the deceased made inadequate provision you should receive advice on your specific situation without delay. We would be happy to discuss your matter on a no obligation basis.
For further information please contact Emma on 8362 6400 or email Emma Marinucci. Join our mailing list to receive updates and advice on current issues.