Estate of Demetriou [2013] VSC 703

The deceased John Demetriou was a widower with estate worth $4.1 million. 

The deceased had two surviving children (Jim and Helen) and surviving grandchildren of another daughter who had predeceased him.

Jim was appointed executor and was left $1.9 million under the estate.  The surviving daughter Helen was left $520,000 as well as the rental from a property.  Nothing was left to the grandchildren.

The grandchildren made claims against the estate, which settled for $685,000 collectively.  Helen also made a claim, which proceeded to trial.

Helen was 60 years old, earned $29,000 per annum and her husband could no longer work.  They had no debt and owned $565,000 in assets.  She said she had cared for her father as he grew older, housing him and being his primary carer on two occasions.  Further, she had contributed to the estate by working in the family business as a child. 

Jim asserted that the discrepancy between amounts awarded to the children under the estate was due to Helen’s alleged neglect of the deceased as he grew older.

Associate Justice Zammit in the Supreme Court of Victoria increased the legacy for Helen to $870,000, in order to maintain her current lifestyle as she aged.  This means that provision for the son was reduced to $865,000, less costs (which would have been substantial).

Caution should always be exercised, and advice taken, when considering unequal provision for children who may have similar degrees of financial need.

Salloum v Assouni [2013] VSC 591

The deceased had 9 children.  He left the family home (worth $695,000) to two of them.

A claim was brought by one daughter for provision from the estate.  She claimed she had been abused by the deceased, but had remained involved in his life in order to keep the peace. 

The plaintiff and her husband had lost all their money in a business failure.  They were now living at the rear of her son’s home, paying rent.  She was reliant on social security and had poor health. Chronic depression and drug dependency were ongoing issues for her family.

The plaintiff sought $200,000.  It was noted by the court that the beneficiaries under the original will were both in low paying jobs and did not own assets.

Justice McMillan in the Supreme Court of Victoria awarded the plaintiff a legacy of $45,000.  The Court was no doubt cognisant of the family’s existing issues in awarding this relatively small sum.