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New changes to WA inheritance law

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Some important changes to Western Australian inheritance law came into effect on 16 January 2013.

Under the terms of what is now called the Family Provision Act 1972 (formerly known as the Inheritance (Family and Dependants Provision) Act or just the “Inheritance Act”), people who believe that they have not been adequately provided for in the estate of a deceased relative, may apply to the court for an order that they receive more from that estate.

Prior to these amendments, an application to challenge the terms of a Will could only be made by a spouse (married or defacto) of the deceased, the former spouse who at the time of the deceased’s death was receiving or was entitled to receive maintenance from the deceased, a child of the deceased (including one not yet born), and a grandchild being maintained by the deceased or a grandchild whose parent died before the deceased.

Today, the recent amendments have now enlarged the class of persons entitled to make such a claim to also include a stepchild of the deceased.

The Act defines a “stepchild” as a person who was alive on the date on which the deceased married/entered into a defacto relationship with the parent of the person, but who is not a child of the deceased.

In order to eligible, immediately before the death of the deceased:

1) the stepchild must have been maintained, or have been entitled to be maintained by the deceased; or
2) the deceased must have received, or have been entitled to receive property (currently of a value of at least $460,000 [UPDATE: this increased to $517,000 on 16 May 2015]) from the estate of a parent of the stepchild (other than as a creditor).

These amendments have been brought into effect to take into account the increasing amount of ‘blended’ families in today’s society, and to remove the likelihood of an injustice being suffered by a stepchild in these circumstances.

What does this mean to the ordinary person?  If you are a stepchild who has been left out of a Will or has not been adequately provided for in a Will, you are now entitled to make a claim for adequate provision out of the deceased’s estate, if the deceased passed away after 16 January.

On the flipside of this,  it is also important to be aware, when making your Will, of the potential claimants on your estate and to take them into account when finalising your Will.

This is but one of the changes to succession law enacted this year.  Another important change deals with the way a Court treats statements by a deceased of their decision to disinherit or reduce the inheritance of someone who would ordinarily be expected to receive the deceased’s assets on their death.

It’s always a good idea to take advice from skilled legal practitioners about dealing with estate disputes, or to discuss what you’d like to happen with your assets after you’re gone.  Some timely precautions can save a lot of problems for your loved ones.

Taylor Smart’s Perth lawyers can help, and we’re only a phone call away.

We talk more about the basics of making an inheritance claim here.

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About

Joshua Taylor     jtaylor@taylorsmart.com.au
Joshua is a member of our Commercial practice group. He provides commercial legal services and has experience in commercial leasing, property law and conveyancing, wills and estate planning, commercial contracts, corporations law, mining law and bankruptcy. He has also worked in native title matters.

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