Family Provision Claims by Adult Children

Pursuant to section 57(1)(c) of the Succession Act 2006 (NSW) a child is an eligible person for a claim for provision out of the estate of the deceased. This eligibility applies regardless of the age of the child.

In Newman v Newman [2015] NSWSC 1207, His Honour Hallen J outlined the following relevant principles in considering claims by adult children of the deceased:

(a) The relationship between parent and child changes when the child attains adulthood. However, a child does not cease to be a natural recipient of parental ties, affection or support, as the bonds of childhood are relaxed.
(b) It is impossible to describe, in terms of universal application, the moral obligation, or community expectation, of a parent in respect of an adult child. It can be said that, ordinarily, the community expects parents to raise, and educate, their children to the very best of their ability while they remain children; probably to assist them with a tertiary education, where that is feasible; where funds allow, to provide them with a start in life, such as a deposit on a home, although it might well take a different form. The community does not expect a parent, in ordinary circumstances, to provide an unencumbered house, or to set his, or her, child up in a position where she or he can acquire a house unencumbered, although in a particular case, where assets permit and the relationship between the parties is such as to justify it, there might be such an obligation: McGrath v Eves [2005] NSWSC 1006; Taylor v Farrugia [2009] NSWSC 801, at [57]; Kohari v Snow[2013] NSWSC 452, at [121]; Salmon v Osmond [2015] NSWCA 42, at [109].
(c) Generally, also, the community does not expect a parent to look after his, or her, child for the rest of the child’s life and into retirement, especially when there is someone else, such as a spouse, who has a primary obligation to do so. Plainly, if an adult child remains a dependent of a parent, the community usually expects the parent to make provision to fulfil that ongoing dependency after death. But where a child, even an adult child, falls on hard times, and where there are assets available, then the community may expect a parent to provide a buffer against contingencies; and where a child has been unable to accumulate superannuation or make other provision for their retirement, something to assist in retirement where otherwise, they would be left destitute: Taylor v Farrugia, at [58]; Smith v Johnson [2015] NSWCA 297, per Sackville AJA, at [92].
(d) There is no need for an applicant adult child to show some special need or some special claim: McCosker v McCosker; Kleinig v Neal (No 2) [1981] 2 NSWLR 532, at 545; Bondelmonte v Blanckensee [1989] WAR 305; Hawkins v Prestage (1989) 1 WAR 37, at 45 (Nicholson J).
(e) The adult child’s lack of reserves to meet demands, particularly of ill health, which become more likely with advancing years, is a relevant consideration: MacGregor v MacGregor [2003] WASC 169, at [179]-[182]; Crossman v Riedel [2004] ACTSC 127, at [49]. Likewise, the need for financial security and a fund to protect against the ordinary vicissitudes of life are relevant: Marks v Marks [2003] WASCA 297, at [43]. In addition, if the applicant is unable to earn, or has a limited means of earning, an income, this could give rise to an increased call on the estate of the deceased: Christie v Manera [2006] WASC 287; Butcher v Craig, at [17].
(f) The applicant has the onus of satisfying the court, on the balance of probabilities, of the justification for the claim: Hughes v National Trustees, Executors and Agency Co of Australasia Ltd [1979] HCA 2; (1979) 143 CLR 134, at 149.
(g) Although some may hold the view that equality between children does not discriminate between children according to gender, character, conduct or financial and material circumstances, the Act is not entirely consistent with that view. To the contrary, the Act specifically identifies, as matters that may be taken into consideration, individual conduct, circumstances, financial resources, including earning capacity, and financial needs, in the court’s determination of the applicant’s case.

Ari Katsoulas is a Sydney barrister practising in Will Disputes including the contesting of wills (family provisions). He is admitted as a Barrister of the High Court of Australia and Supreme Court of New South Wales.

LIABILITY LIMITED BY A SCHEME APPROVED UNDER PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS LEGISLATION

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