Court or Tribunal: 
Catchwords: Succession, Wills
Judges:  Lindsay J


Background: A dying woman sat in her kitchen, delivering "motherly exhortations" and her last will and testament to a video camera. The 85-year-old widow glanced across the room at one of her daughters, who stood to inherit a larger share of the estate if the "video will" could alter a written will signed just two days earlier. It is a scenario that might ring alarm bells, and which raises questions about whether a will that is not in writing and witnessed by at least two people is legally valid.  
 
  [Legal Issue]Justice Linsday said the woman made a "series of short, and apparently well-considered, disciplined statements of intent (coupled with motherly exhortations in passing) that stand neatly with the will as an alteration of the primary document". He ruled that, in light of the evidence and the absence of any objection from the other siblings, there was "no room for doubt" the will was voluntarily made. He admitted the video as an informal will. But Justice Lindsay sounded a note of caution to others considering delivering a will to camera. The costs of the case and the substantial delay in processing the probate application - Ms Chan died in June 2012 - were the result of legal uncertainty about validity of a video will.    [Court Orders]Orders for a video will to be admitted to probate pursuant to the Succession Act 2006 NSW, section 8. 2. Declaration, pursuant to section 10(3)(c) of the Act, that the testatrix knew and approved of, and freely and voluntarily made, a disposition in favour of a person who witnessed and assisted the making of the video-will.     


 ] Download Decision

Court or Tribunal: 
Catchwords: Estate Planning, Estoppel by Conduct, Family Provision, Family Provision, Family Trust, Family Trust, High Value Estates, Large Estate, Requirement of Adequate Maintenance, Succession, Succession, Wills
Judges:  Martin J


Background: Steven Darveniza, the eldest son of Bojan Darveniza, took his father’s widow to the Supreme Court to get a share of the estate, claiming he had worked for his father for many years. Bojan Darveniza died in 2010, aged 78, leaving most of his estate to his second wife, Xiao Hong Darveniza, now known as Jane, who was 30 years younger than him. Multi-millionaire Bojan Darveniza was a hardworking, astute investor with a talent for turning run-down properties into rental goldmines, amassing a fortune. But to his older children, Bojan was a tyrant who ruled them with an iron rod, making them work hard in the family business after school and on weekends. Bojan had eight children – Steven and Tania with first wife Lindsay; Natasha, Jonathon and Andrea with his ex-housekeeper de fact 
 
  [Legal Issue]This case involves an examination of the familial and financial relationships of the Darveniza family. Steven Darveniza has brought two matters before the Court. In the first he seeks an order for provision (pursuant to s 41 of the Succession Act 1981) from the estate of his deceased father, Bojan Darveniza (“the provision claim”). In the second, he seeks declarations about, and transfers of interests in, a number of family companies (“the trust claim”). He also seeks damages pursuant to s 82 of the Trade Practices Act 1974 and consequential orders (“the company claim”).    [Court Orders]Bojan’s personal estate was worth $40 million at the time of his death, but the net value was now between $26 and $28 million, the court heard. Justice Martin said Steven deserved better provision from his father’s very large estate because he had worked long and hard for Bojan, contributing to the growth of his property interests. Two reasons for his father not providing for him in his will were misconceived or based on a misunderstanding, the judge said. He also accepted Steven co     


 ] Download Decision

Court or Tribunal: 
Catchwords: Family Provision, Family Provision, Moral Duty, Succession, Succession, Wills
Judges:  LE MIERE J


Background: John Costigan and Muriel Josephine Costigan were married for 62 years before Mr Costigan died on 9 July 2004. There were four children of the marriage (one has since deceased): The plaintiff was the second daughter, Meredith. The defendants were the first and third daughers, Suzanne & Robynne. Muriel Costigan, the mother, was deceased on 20 May 2007 and left a will. Under her will the mother left the plaintiff $50,000 in shares. The mother left assets totalling $1,780,538.96 to Suzanne and Robynne in equal shares.  
 
  [Legal Issue]The plaintiff claims that she has been left without adequate provision for her proper maintenance, support or advancement in life and applies under s 6 of the Inheritance (Family and Dependants Provision) Act 1972 (WA) (the Act) for an order that such provision as the court thinks fit be made out of the estate for that purpose. The legal issue for the Court will consider whether adequate provision had been made for the plaintiff's proper maintenance, support or advancement in life. Whether the deceased had a moral duty to make further provision for the plaintiff after 30 years of estrangement. Turns on own facts   [Court Orders]Will varied to make further provision for plaintiff. The will of the deceased should be varied by providing that the sum of $260,000 be paid to the plaintiff from the estate after the distribution, in accordance with the will, of the furniture, paintings, jewellery and other household goods and the proceeds of the sale of the Investa Property Trust shares, as well as the Department of Veterans Affairs one off payment.     


 ] Download Decision

Court or Tribunal: 
Catchwords: De Facto Relationship, De Facto Relationships, Domestic Partner Declaration, Domestic relationship, Estate Planning, Failure of testatrix to make provision, Family Provision, Intestate, Substantial Relationship, Succession, Succession, Wills
Judges:  Gzell J


Background: This case considered the issue of family provisions and whether or not a young student who was living in a domestic relationship with an elderly woman was entitled to claim against the estate. Michael Ye, the plaintiff, came to Australia from China to study. Frances Lan Fong Fung (the deceased) was separated (but not divorced) from her husband, and invited Mr Ye to move into her unit where he lived in a non-sexual relationship with her. She was 37 years his senior. Frances Lan Fong Fung died on 21 June 2001. In her Will, Frances Lan Fong Fung made no provision for Mr Ye. Mr Ye made a claim against the estate, claiming that he was in a non-sexual de facto relationship with the deceased. 
 
  [Legal Issue]It was submitted that de facto is to be contrasted with de jure and the relationship determined by reference to the facts rather than a relationship between parties recognised at law. But that approach fails to give due regard to the requirement that the individuals in question live together as a couple. It was submitted that the word “couple” was one of wide import and required only that there be two unmarried adults. But the definition specifically requires two adult persons who are not married or related by family. To construe the word “couple” in that general sense, adds nothing further to the definition and renders the Property (Relationships) Act 1984, s 4(1)(a) otiose. It was submitted that the difference in age of 37 years was not, of itself, significant. The parties    [Court Orders]The Court found that Mr Ye was not the de facto spouse of the deceased within the meaning of the Wills, Probate and Administration Act 1898, s 32G. As such, the plaintiff, Mr Ye, could not claim any relief against her estate on this basis. However, in separate but related proceedings, the plaintiff also claimed to be in a domestic relationship to the deceased, having considered her to be his "honorary auntie". These related proceedings were held subsequently to this hearing, and would be      


 ] Download Decision