"I give unto my wife my second best bed with the furniture" – part of the last Will of William Shakespeare.
If Shakespeare's wife was alive today in NSW she would have a compelling legal basis for challenging his will.
Australia does not share the American legal view that the concept of liberty permits a person to leave his or her estate to a pet, a stranger or an association fostering better relations with other residents of the universe. The law in NSW requires the author of a will to fairly allocate assets in an estate to or between those who are recognised by the law as having an entitlement.
Who are these people?
Topping the list are long term partners (irrespective of intractable bitter daily confrontations characterising some relationships), children including step-children and others who may have been emotionally and financially dependent upon the testator.
The long forgotten (or never mentioned) love child – a result of an impulsive and passionate union many moons ago - may also have a claim on the estate.
When preparing your will, you should consider anyone and everyone who may slide into any of the above categories. Resolving the terms of your will requires an objective assessment of who may be entitled, who you think should benefit and drafting a will in terms that will discourage future court challenges.
You cannot prevent your will being challenged. You can however discourage a challenge by thoughtfully and compassionately reviewing your personal circumstances and those of your relatives and other past or current dependents.
Openly discussing the proposed contents of your will and inviting comments from potential claimants will reduce later conflict.
As the Bard said "It is a wise father that knows his own child".
General Counsel Liston Legal