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Real life stories

Real life stories

What can happen if you don't make a Will?

If you die without a Will all of your 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 and not to Sally.

Did you know that the Queensland intestacy laws have a formula for distributing assets when a person dies without a Will? In certain circumstances this may include children, in addition to a spouse.

If only Paul had made a Will naming his wife as the only beneficiary of his estate.


Estranged Father collects $1M

Kylie was 22 years of age when she died in a tragic accident. Kylie 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 with 50% allocated to each of her parents. This was even though Kylie’s father deserted the family when Kylie was six months old and did not pay a cent of child support.

The family claims there is no way Kylie would want her Dad to receive anything.

If only Kylie had made her wishes known.


It’s important to formally acknowledge informal family arrangements

James was born in New Zealand and immigrated to Australia where he moved to a Queensland mining town.

James lived in a defacto relationship with his partner, Karen, for over 20 years and he helped raise Karen’s children from a previous relationship. These children lived with him until they were adults.

Sadly, 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 now adult 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.

If only James had made a Will outlining who he wanted to receive his estate.


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

Simon emigrated from England to Australia in the 1940's. He never married nor had children and he died without a Will. Simon 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. These were of workmen in front of a truck with a company name and logo painted on it and a photo of his father in an English police uniform.

We contacted the village in England shown on Simon’s birth certificate, the local constabulary, parish priest and the trucking company.

A few weeks later we received three letters; one 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 provided the married name and address of Simon’s sister Jane who had moved to the next village.

Jane had lost touch with her brother Simon 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. Unfortunately, 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 the deceased.

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

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Last published: 3/07/2018 10:36:44 PM