“ESTRANGEMENT” IN FAMILY PROVISION PROCEEDINGS

In Wright v Wright (2016) QDC 74, the deceased had been estranged from his two children for most of their lives.  He was 73 when he died, his daughter was 43 and his son was 46.  The deceased was largely absent during his children’s upbringing, and he spent 20 years in the navy.  When the children were in primary school, their mother and the deceased separated, and within a few years the deceased and his children had virtually no contact.  This situation continued until he died.

The deceased left behind an estate worth $1.85 million.  He left nothing to his children, left $600,000 to a childrens’ hospital foundation, and left the rest of his estate to his brother aged 71 and sister aged 67.

The two children applied to court, seeking provision from the estate.  The court weighed up the relative financial needs of the two children and the deceased’s two siblings, and also looked at the estrangement between the deceased and his children.

Financially, none of the two children or the deceased’s siblings were well off.  All appeared to live modestly.

As to the estrangement, the court found that each side of the father/children divide felt abandoned by the other.  The judge also found that the deceased lived isolated from his children and that he had not built any foundation for a relationship with them.  The court did not find that there was any conduct on the part of the children which disentitled them to provision from the estate.

The judge observed that “the deceased was entitled to benefit under his will his close and loving, hardworking and modest-living siblings, and a worthy charity, but not to the exclusion of his own children.”

The deceased’s daughter was awarded $400,000, the son $350,000, each of the two siblings $360,000, and $380,000 went to the charity.