Dunedin family feuds over $1m will

Last updated 11:05 15/08/2014

Related Links

Challenging $1.2m will 'never about money'

Relevant offers

An elderly Dunedin woman says she is devastated after losing a long fight with her adult children to preserve the provisions of their late father's will.

> Update: Challenging $1.2m will 'was never about money'

However, a decision from the High Court at Dunedin found that "much of their [the couple's] parenting was undesirable", and the woman "mistreated" the children while their dad was "too passive".

After five years of legal battles, the woman has been unable to prevent her children's claim on her late husband's $1 million-plus estate, assets they built up as a couple over their marriage of more than 50 years.

The woman is in her 70s and says she is in poor health.

She said she tells her estranged children: "I'm not dead yet."

If she had died before her husband, the children would have got $25,000 each, the remainder going to a vulnerable children's charity.

A court suppression prevents publication of material identifying her and other parties involved in the case.

The case marked a landmark in New Zealand family law, the High Court noted in its written decision.

It was the first of its kind of a will, in which the estate was left to the surviving spouse who was still alive, being challenged by biological children, the decision said.

In the Family Court, the judge found the father did not owe a moral duty to support his children but did owe a moral duty to them in terms of their maintenance. The judge adjusted the will, awarding the children and grandchild 5 per cent of the estate, except for one child who was deemed to be coping financially, who was awarded 3 per cent.

The High Court ruled this should be increased to 10 per cent for each of the children, and 5 per cent for the grandchild.

The offspring said their father and grandfather failed in his moral duties to them as his children and grandchild. He had failed to make adequate provision from his estate for them in the knowledge his widow was likely to exclude them from her will.

The court established the deceased and his wife had shared a belief, documented in the will, that their children all be given the opportunity to adequately provide for themselves. The parents' belief was so strong they had themselves not accepted any of their parents' estates.

The woman's lawyer said the case was unusual in that it was "kids attacking one of the parents".

The decision was "surprising", he said.

Ad Feedback

The concern was that, in terms of property relationships, it now seemed that not only parties who separated could lose half of their assets, he said.

"It could happen on death too," the lawyer said.

The children and grandchild could not be reached for comment. 

This story has been edited since it was first published to better reflect the judgment. The mother's age has also been corrected.

- Stuff

Stimes strap contact us
Contact us

Contact details for The Southland Times and community newspapers.

photographer, camera
Photo orders

Order copies of images taken by Southland Times photographers.

st strap Communites
Our E-Editions

Read our free publications online.

Win with the Times

Win with us!

Stl paper logo
Subscriber services

Click here for subscriber news and information.

Special offers
Opinion poll

How much food do you waste?

None - what we don't eat goes to the pigs

Not much. We have a few leftovers - most of it gets eaten the next day

More than I'd like. I'm always throwing away veggies I haven't used

Vote Result

Related story: Southlanders waste food

Featured Promotions

Sponsored Content

Daily diversions
Cartoons by Chicane, aka Mark Winter


Today's puzzles


Your Family News
Birth notices and anniversaries


View marriage and birth notices from around the region

Death notices

Death Notices

View obituaries from around the region