Published 23 Feb 2010

In amendments to the Succession Act, assented to on the 9th June, 2009 commenced this year. Under NSW Intestacy Law before this amendment came into effect spouses were entitled to the whole of the estate if the value of the estate excluding household chattels did not exceed $200,000.00, if the value of the estate exceeded $200,000.00 the balance was distributed between the surviving spouse and any children. The surviving spouse received the $200,000.00 plus household chattels and basically the balance was equally distributed between the spouse and children of the deceased.

The main change now in effect from 2010 is the rule affecting spouses in that it introduces the word domestic partnership and multiple spouses and spouse is defined as married person, domestic partner, same or opposite sex and for the purposes of the Act a person that is deceased may have been in a relationship with a spouse as well as being married and also having domestic partners making those extra parties eligible to claim. Basically the new law also states that if the deceased leaves more than one spouse then spouses inherit the whole intestate estate but if there are any children they do not receive any benefit whereas previously the estate was divided between spouses and children. strangely where the intestate leaves children from a previous relationship WHERE THE FORMER PARTNER is not deemed as a spouse as at the date of death, then those children have a right to claim as under the existing law. This is rather unusual and rather confusing.

Another important point is under the new law first cousins will be entitled to make a claim if there are no other relatives surviving whereas under the current law first cousins are not included in the estate.

Under further amendments introduced in 2010 if there are no living relatives than any organisation or trustees of that organisation for example charities with whom the deceased was connected or a volunteer group of some group where he/she made regular donations then these people have standing to claim the estate or part of.

NOTE THAT ANY CHILD OF THE DECEASED INTESTATE CAN IRRESPECTIVE OF THE AFOREGOING , STILL MAKE A CLAIM AGAINST THE ESTATE UNDER THE FAMILY PROVISIONS ACT.