Bowen Buchbinder Vilensky

Step Children Get Will Rights

by
The West Australian, December 2012

Stepchildren will for the first time be able to challenge the wills of their step-parents under long-awaited legal changes that will overcome "gross inequities" in inheritance laws and are expected to lead to an influx of Supreme Court claims.

Wills and estate planning law specialist Morgan Solomon said the inequity in the inheritance laws, which had previously excluded Supreme Court challenges by stepchildren who had been left out or inadequately provided for in their step-parents' wills, had been highlighted nearly three decades ago.

Mr Solomon said the changes, which came into effect on November 22, were the most significant in decades and would bring WA into line with all other Australian jurisdictions.

"Given the current cultural landscape of blended families, step- parents, de facto step-parents, it has been a gross inequity," Mr Solomon said.

"Because no matter how dependent on the deceased, as a stepchild they simply had no standing in law.

"Even if they were very young and totally dependent on the deceased, they were out in the cold.

"I do think, as a practical flow-on effect, there will be more challenges, simply because there is now a whole expanded class of people (able to make claims)."

Attorney-General Michael Mischin said the changes would allow stepchildren to make claims in limited circumstances.

The first change allowed challenges based on claims there had been failure to provide adequate or proper provision for a stepchild who was being, or was entitled to be, entirely or partly maintained by the dead step-parent.

The second allowed claims when a step-parent had received property from the estate of a birth parent on the understanding that at least a substantial part would be left to the child when the surviving step- parent died.

This would apply when the property involved was valued above the median house price.