Can daughters fight stealthy change to Mum’s will?

Mum quietly changes will to exclude daughters from a share of the family home. Rod Cunich tells what they should do.

Can daughters fight stealthy change to Mum’s will?

A mother has quietly changed her will to leave the family home to a son and exclude two daughters. Can estate planning lawyer Rod Cunich help the daughters?

•••

Q. Finn*

I am asking this question on behalf of my wife and sister-in-law .

We recently found out that my wife’s mother has signed her property over to one of my wife’s brothers. We found this out by complete accident and had absolutely no idea that this had happened. Both my wife and sister-in-law have contact with their mother and are very upset to have discovered this. The relationship with their brother is non-existent due to past incidents. The brother is divorced and has lived with his mother for a few years .

My wife’s mother and brother are not aware they have found out this information. Any advice would be appreciated.

A. There is no quick fix to this problem. Typically, this type of problem only arises once a person passes away and the facts are discovered.

Unless agreement can be reached between the parties, the only solution is to litigate the matter through the courts. Such claims are often based on assertions of ‘undue influence’ and/or trust law and other complex legal arguments.

I strongly recommend that your wife and sister-in-law immediately seek specialist advice as this situation requires an expert to review all the facts to advise what their immediate and post death options might be.


The only things I can say is that doing nothing is not an option, and the issues once raised will damage relationships.

* Not his real name.

Rod Cunich is a lawyer and author with more than 30 years’ experience who specialises in estate planning. If you have a question for Rod, simply email it to newsletters@yourlifechoices.com.au. His book, Understanding Wills and Estate Planning, has recently been updated and is available from all good bookshops.

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    COMMENTS

    To make a comment, please register or login
    Priscilla
    23rd Oct 2019
    10:25am
    What ius the purpose of bothering to make a will if it can be changed/challenged by those not included? Obviously the people not included have been left out for a reason.
    Paddington
    23rd Oct 2019
    11:35am
    Or the brother is manipulating the mother?
    It really depends on the circumstances. If the brother is looking after his mother and the daughters have been neglectful then maybe so.
    It is a bad idea to omit siblings though as you are not around to manage the hurt and fighting that will occur.
    I say include everyone to avoid a mess after you are gone. The one you leave out could cause untold misery.
    The Care Bear.
    23rd Oct 2019
    12:13pm
    It's not helpful to speculate on these matters as all the Facts are not known.
    Triss
    23rd Oct 2019
    1:10pm
    Maybe he is the only one of the siblings who doesn’t own a house and the mother is trying to make sure he doesn’t become homeless on her death.
    Cassius
    23rd Oct 2019
    10:57am
    Apart from taking care of a financially dependant family member you should be able to do what you want with your assets.
    A will should not be allowed to be challenged as you would not be there to defend your decision.
    JAID
    23rd Oct 2019
    11:26am
    I cant see as it is a problem.

    It is a choice your wife's mother has made and what is hers is hers to give. How can It be reasonable to think that we have any claim on our parent's wealth? They have brought us up expending time and money and care. That may be a responsibility but is also the greatest gift.

    A greatful, loving child would immediately meet its mother and seek that she get the most significant legal advice to ensure that both that child and the other expectant daughter has the least means of disrupting her will.
    Circum
    23rd Oct 2019
    12:10pm
    Where dementia is involved,the demented person is vulnerable to be manipulated by anyone in a position of power,such as a carer who may have a sense of entitlement.Will challenges often occur if the latest Will looks invalid and does not appear to have been willingly made by the Will maker.
    Circum
    23rd Oct 2019
    12:10pm
    Where dementia is involved,the demented person is vulnerable to be manipulated by anyone in a position of power,such as a carer who may have a sense of entitlement.Will challenges often occur if the latest Will looks invalid and does not appear to have been willingly made by the Will maker.
    greygeek
    23rd Oct 2019
    12:47pm
    A death of a Parent brings out the worst in some of the beneficiaries. Greed, Avarice, theft, deceit, threats, lies etc. Everything in my Father's Will was to be divided equally amongst three siblings, with one bequest to my husband. One Sibling stole the bequest for no other reason than pure hatred of my husband, who was the Chief Executor! The two grabbed anything and everything they thought might be of value and 20 years on, I am still waiting for a third of all the family photographs which they said they would share, I am not holding my breath. They are related to me by birth, however, I consider them to be "people I once knew"!! I feel if I did not have "that item" yesterday, I do not need "that item" today or tomorrow either! I am "rich" with the love in my heart and my memories of my Parents! In the article mentioned, given the Son is living with the Mother, it would be wise for the siblings to seek advice as to whether the Mother has been intimidated to changing her will or if indeed she is of sound mind!
    Cat
    23rd Oct 2019
    3:23pm
    I have had a similar situation. My siblings fraudulently misrepresented themselves to try and thieve and abscond with my deceased father's funeral funds leaving his body abandoned in the funeral home because it would have prevented his burial. They didn't get away with it and I now consider these "people that I once knew" to be people that I never really knew. They didn't turn up to his funeral either.
    Karl Marx
    23rd Oct 2019
    1:09pm
    People should not even comment on this. The correct advice was given by Rod Cunich
    greygeek
    23rd Oct 2019
    1:51pm
    We do still live in a country which allows freedom of speech! Comments are just that, not legal advice, just shared experiences or voicing possible concerns.
    Cassius
    25th Oct 2019
    11:07am
    The solution is spend it all so they have nothing to fight over
    casey
    23rd Oct 2019
    2:03pm
    If the mother has already signed the property over to the brother, is'nt it too late . She hasn't left it to him in her will. It says she has signed it over. Why does a death always bring out the worst in people? I have seen it so many times. Happened to me. My parents lived in a house which I owned, and my sister swept in and cleaned the place out even taking things from the house which belonged to me. The way she acted I decided I don't need people like that in my life, and we havn't spoken since.
    cupoftea
    23rd Oct 2019
    3:05pm
    I checked up myself regarding a similar thing but I am own and my 3 sisters don't stand a chance because I have never kept them like $10.00 a week for the last 10 yrs
    Red 13
    23rd Oct 2019
    6:49pm
    Happened to me. My sister emotionally blackmailed my mother into secretly changing her will to leave the estate in total to her and cutting out her three brothers. She also coerced my mother into secretly agreeing to a $300000 loan using the house as collateral, and she lived as a high roller, new cars holidays, the good life. When my mother succumbed to Vascular Dementia we all found out the truth.
    There was hell to pay!
    We got legal advice and got her to sign an agreement to sell the house when we wanted.
    She lives in the house, rent free, but has to service the mortgage and pay all utilities and rates. She agrees we are all part owners.
    But when the time is right and we agree by majority, we will sell.
    Pardelope
    3rd Nov 2019
    6:02am
    Wills are not guaranteed to be carried out as written.

    If you are leaving out any relative who could be expecting something, you should explain your reasons in the will. It is a good idea to leave them something - and explain why it is a lesser amount than another beneficiary. By doing this, it should not be possible to claim that you forgot them.

    Changing your will when you are getting older may result in a claim that you were suffering dementia. A friend of mine (in her 70's) was advised to get a written mental fitness document from a doctor to accompany the new will.

    I recently heard of a case where a verbal promise was made to a person (relative) that he would inherit the house because he had been helping the deceased for many years and had spent a lot of time and money doing maintenance, renovations, gardening, physical care etc. The will actually gave everything to various other people, but nothing to the one who had helped him the most. Perhaps the deceased thought that the help was only given because it would bring a future benefit? The deceased had also manipulated other people with similar promises. Perhaps it would have been better or fairer if he had died intestate so the estate would be divided according to state laws? The cost and stress involved in contesting a will is likely to make that option a "non starter" for many people. Don't expect anything, and you won't be let down.