Are you an eligible beneficiary to challenge a will?

In the Victorian case of Stanojevic v Riboskic the court considered the issues of whether a claimant would be viewed as an “eligible person” entitled to make a claim on the estate of the deceased on the basis that the claimant and the deceased lived together in a genuine domestic relationship.

The facts were quite simple: the parties had lived together in a de facto relationship for almost 40 years but in later years the relationship was patchy and can best be described as “on and off”.  In fact, as at the date of death the claimant and the deceased were no longer living together.  Each of them had taken out a restraining order against the other in the preceding 18 months to curb the conduct of the other.

The deceased had omitted the claimant as a beneficiary under the will.  The executor of the estate had refused to agree to a share of the estate being divided up with the claimant and had argued that as at the date of death there was no genuine domestic relationship.  The claimant was in receipt of a disability pension for the previous 16 years.  The claimant had leased for herself accommodation.

The judge heard the following evidence:

  • The claimant had financially contributed to the household expenses and renovations undertaken to the property of the deceased.
  • She had cared for the mother of the deceased when she was unsell.
  • The deceased drank and gambled to excess and was sometimes violent to the claimant.
  • The deceased had ruined the finances of the family.

The judge balanced out the evidence and decided that the claimant was still entitled to be considered an eligible beneficiary.

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