Will stories

These stories are inspired by true events.

If you die without a Will, your entire estate may not automatically be given to your spouse

Mary and Paul were married and had a daughter, Sally. Due to family disagreements, Sally was estranged from her parents for many years.

When Paul died without a Will, instead of the entire estate passing to Mary, a portion was given to Sally—even though Mary maintained Paul would have wanted the estate to go entirely to her.

If you die without a Will, Queensland intestacy laws have a formula for distributing assets. This may include children, in addition to a spouse.

Find out more about what happens if you die without a Will.

Estranged father collects $1M

Kylie was 22 when she died in a tragic accident. She did not have a Will and her estate received a $2M insurance payout due to her accidental death.

Because she had not made a Will, Kylie’s estate was divided between her parents—even though Kylie’s father deserted the family when Kylie was six months old and did not pay a cent of child support.

Her family claims there is no way Kylie would have wanted her dad to receive anything.

It’s important to formally acknowledge informal family arrangements

James was born in New Zealand and immigrated to Australia.

James lived in a de facto relationship with his partner, Karen, for over twenty years; he helped raise Karen’s children from a previous relationship. These children lived with him until they were adults.

Karen died before James and in her Will she left him her estate. James continued the close relationship he shared with Karen’s children for many years.

When James died without a Will, Karen’s children did not receive any of his estate, including the family home where they had lived their entire lives. James’s estate was given to a brother living in New Zealand.

Finding a beneficiary when you die without a Will can involve some detective work

Simon emigrated from England to Australia in the 1940s. He never married or had children and he died without a Will.

He lived a reclusive life and his one friend knew little about him, except that he had a sister in England.

When the Public Trustee was securing his belongings, we found his birth certificate and two photographs. One was of workmen in front of a truck with a company name and logo painted on it, and the other was a photo of his father in an English police uniform.

We contacted the local police, parish priest and the trucking company from the English village shown on Simon’s birth certificate.

A few weeks later, we received three letters—one was from the village police, one from the trucking company (which still existed and was where Simon worked when he was young) and one from the village priest. The priest gave the married name and address of Simon’s sister Jane who had moved to the next village.

Jane had lost touch with her brother many years earlier and did not know he had died until she was told so by the local policeman and priest.

It was extremely fortunate that Simon was from a small village where everyone knew everyone else. Would your family be easy to locate if you died without a Will?

A good reason to keep your Will up to date when your beneficiaries change

John was single and had no children. He made a Will leaving his substantial estate to his mother.

However, his mother died before him and John did not remember to change his Will.

To finalise his affairs, the Public Trustee undertook extensive searches of John’s maternal and paternal family trees. This involved over two years of searching. In the end the Public Trustee discovered around 25 family branches.

The result was 20 elderly cousins received varying shares of John’s estate. Some of these cousins died during the estate administration, complicating the estate further. Only a few of the beneficiaries actually knew John.

We can only wonder if this is what John would have wanted.

More information

Last published: 23/05/2022 12:46:16 AM