The recent Judgment of the High Court is a timely reminder of the need to regularly review your Will, or if you have a Will, to update it.
The background to the Judgment is that in 1984 Mr & Mrs T married. There were no children of the marriage and Mr T did not have other children.
In May 2001 the couple separated. On 31 October 2001 a Matrimonial Property Agreement was concluded. The matrimonial home was transferred from their joint ownership to the sole ownership of Mr T. Mr T paid Mrs T $13,000.00 being her half share of the equity in the property.
On 20 August 2009, Mr T died without a Will. Mrs T then took legal advice and then steps to occupy and safeguard the former matrimonial home in which her late husband had resided in until his death.
Because Mr T died without a Will, the provisions of Administration Act 1969 applied. Under that Act, because Mrs T was Mr T’s surviving spouse (even though they had concluded a Matrimonial Property Agreement), and because Mr T died without leaving children, Mrs T was entitled to Mr T’s entire estate. This was so even though the parties had settled their matrimonial property in 2001 and Mr T had paid out Mrs T. The Court concluded that this was not the intended outcome but resulted from the mismanagement of Mr T’s affairs i.e. the failure to make a Will.
It is apparent from this case that the completion (and regular review) of a Will is essential to ensure that your estate is ultimately distributed according to your wishes.