Where do you draw the line between friends and spouses for estates disputes?

Relationships can be complicated at the best of times, but sometimes they can continue to be difficult even after we have passed away.

In estates law, a de facto partner of the deceased may generally be entitled to a distribution from the deceased’s estate. But how close does a relationship need to be before you are considered as a spouse, rather than simply a friend?

The recent case of NSW Trustee and Guardian v McGrath [2013] NSWSC 1894 provides an interesting case study in how Courts will look at a person’s relationships for estates purposes. The deceased did not have a will in this case. Mr McGrath was found to be her de facto partner, and therefore received a distribution from the deceased’s estate.

The factors the Court looked at to ultimately determine that the deceased and Mr McGrath were in a de facto relationship were:

• They often spent weekends and holidays together, despite living separately;

• They shared a close bond, developed after both of their spouses (to whom they were married) passed away around the same time;

• They spent time with each others families;

• They looked after each other whenever each of them got sick.

Although this was a borderline decision by the Court, it shows that there are many different factors the Court will consider when looking at relationships.

You should always consider who may be entitled to receive a share of your estate when you pass away

If you require assistance with your estate planning matters or an estate dispute, contact McLaughlins.