Are Your Affairs In Order? What Happens If You Die and Don't Have a Will? Case Study 2

This article contains the second case study in our Estate Planning series, which highlights the consequences of neglecting your Estate Planning and what you can do about it.

Avoid undesirables benefiting from your estate at the expense of your loved ones

Lodin v Lodin [2017] NSWSC 10

A doctor died at age 65, without a Will. The good doctor lived as a single man for most of his life and left a substantial estate, in excess of $5 million. He had one child, the daughter of a marriage that did not last. The doctor and his wife only lived together for about 18 months, finalising a divorce about 5 years later. Divorces are rarely cordial affairs, but this one was exceptional given the extent of rancour. The following is a summary of the volatile dispute between the doctor and wife:

1. The Family Court made a financial award to the wife;

2. Unsatisfied with this award, the wife appealed the Family Court decision;

3. The wife’s appeal was ultimately dismissed;

4. The wife attempted to blackmail the doctor but she was unsuccessful;

5. The wife set about a deliberate and sustained campaign to ruin the doctor’s life;

6. The wife lodged a complaint to the medical authority accusing the doctor of misconduct arising from the fact that their relationship begun as that of doctor/patient;

7. This complaint resulted in a finding of professional misconduct;

8. The wife made other complaints about the doctor: unfounded allegations of domestic violence and even the sexual abuse of his daughter;

9. A number of AVOs were issued; none were upheld under judicial scrutiny but one was served on the doctor whilst he was at work;

10. The doctor was humiliated by the AVO incident at work and resigned from the hospital;

11. Throughout this ordeal, the doctor consistently paid the wife child support payments;

12. It was later discovered that the wife lied about her financial circumstances in order to unlawfully obtain excessive child support payments from the doctor.

Notwithstanding all of this, the NSW Supreme Court awarded the doctor’s ex-wife $750,000 out of his estate! This was despite all of the evidence suggesting the doctor would have willed the entirety of his estate to his daughter, and likely would not have made such a substantial provision for his ex-wife. At extraordinary cost to the daughter and the estate, the decision was eventually overturned by the Court of Appeal, but by that time much of the damage had already been done. Much of the financial harm done to the doctor’s daughter could be remedied, but the emotional toll had already been taken.

The Lesson
Have a Will so that the people you most care about are adequately looked after following your death. Have a Will so that you limit and exclude people who should not benefit from your death from doing so at the expense of your family and friends, who should have otherwise benefited. Don’t leave a legacy of pain, anguish, expense or dispute.

Gavin Parsons and Associates can assist you with any questions you have regarding your Estate Planning. Please contact us today on (02) 9262 4471.

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Date posted: 2018-07-30