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Rocky woman's $3m will contested by daughter-in-law

Wood and brass judges gavel on a law book
Wood and brass judges gavel on a law book serggn

A WIDOW has lost her court case against her deceased husband's brothers for one third of their mother's $3million estate.

Rockhampton resident Joan Margaret Smith died in 2014, aged 99, leaving behind an estate worth almost $3million split between two of her three sons and their families.

The widow of the third son, Rita Carmen Smith, along with their two children Adam Gerhard Smith and Gretchen Emma Smith, were left out of Joan's will, according to court documents.

Justice John Bond handed down his decision on August 11 in relation to the claim over the estate of Joan Margaret Smith after he heard evidence from all parties during a four day trial late last year.

Rita claimed her husband Gerald and his two brothers Ian and Ronald had made a verbal agreement after their father's death in 1991 that they would split the estate three ways after Joan's death, despite what was written in her will.

Their father, William, had left his entire estate to his wife.

Rita claimed that part of the agreement was that none of the brothers would make a claim on their father's estate while their mother was alive.

She told the court Gerald had told her about this agreement a month or more after the brothers had reached it.

Gerald died of cancer in 2001, aged 51.

Court documents show Rita claimed that two days before Gerald died, he requested his two brothers confirm the agreement they made in 1991 in front of Rita and Gretchen. She claimed this confirmation did take place.

Rita launched the court claim in 2015, the year after Joan's death in 2014.

According to court documents, Joan's estate, comprising of personal property, cash investments, a life insurance policy and real estate, was worth about $2,960,000.

Joan divided her personal property between Ron and his two children and Ian and his two children, along with specifically gifting $90,000 to each of those four grandchildren. She divided the rest between Ron and Ian.

Her will noted that Ron and his wife owed her no debts, and specifically forgave debts owed by Ian and late son Gerald and their wives.

Rita also claimed a third verbal agreement about splitting the equally three ways was made between herself, the brothers and their wives around a campfire five years after Gerald's death.

However, both Ian and Ron deny both the 1991 agreement or the 2001 'confirmation' or the 'campfire confirmation' taking place.

Justice Bond wrote, in his decision, if the brothers had intended to strike a legally binding deal in 1991 for the future, it would not have been one which simply agreed that her estate would be split three ways: it would have been one which at least adverted to the prospect of adjustment based on whatever loan situation obtained when Joan died.

He also noted that Gerald's will did not make a claim on his father's or mother's estate.

Topics:  court claim family inheritance


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