In March 2014 a 30-year-old man died unexpectedly leaving an estate valued at around $600,000. He did not have a will and although he had separated from his wife two years prior to his death, and reached a property settlement he had not signed his divorce papers. Therefore Intestacy law mandated his estate go to his estranged wife.
The intestate and his wife were together for a relatively short time. They got married and built a house, however they had a difficult relationship that further deteriorated after they married. The wife moved out of the marital home, commenced divorce proceedings, instigated a property settlement and signed the divorce papers.
Under the terms of the property settlement approved by the Family Court the wife received $35,000 in return for transferring her interest in the matrimonial home, plus goods and chattels valued at around $15,000.
In November 2013, the wife served divorce papers, in an act of petulance the intestate refused to sign them. When asked his father believed that he refused to do so in order to inconvenience his estranged wife.
The intestate died in March 2014; notwithstanding the property settlement his estranged wife was still his spouse. Intestacy law creates an order of entitlement, and in this case because the divorce hadn’t gone through his estate goes automatically to his spouse.
The intestate had been with his new partner for 15 months. Interestingly if they had been together for 24 months intestacy law would have recognized her as a de facto partner and she would be on an equal footing with the wife.
The important message to take from this is to make sure you have a will. And if you are party to any legal proceedings, make sure you take them seriously and finalise all the paperwork as soon as possible.