neville wranNeville Wran, the former Premier of New South Wales died in 2014 after suffering from dementia. Now the battle over his $40 million estate is beginning in the Supreme Court of New South Wales.

The battle is typical of a blended family. His first marriage in 1946 lasted for thirty years. During this marriage, Neville adopted the son of his wife, Glenn Wran and they went on to have a daughter.

In 1976, Neville Wran met Jill Hickson who was more than twenty years younger. Their marriage lasted until his death, and they had two children together. The former Premier who served New South Wales from 1976 – 1986 left an estate and a notional estate, something unique to New South Wales law. Wran’s estate – the assets in his own name – totalled only $500,000 with the remainder of his wealth made up his ‘notional estate’ – assets held in complex company and trust structures, assets held with a joint tenant and superannuation make up the ‘notional estate’.

Like many who own considerable assets, the majority of Neville Wran’s assets were owned by entities other than himself – trust and company structures. Like superannuation proceeds, assets owned by entities other than the deceased person do not make up the estate – except in New South Wales. In that jurisdiction, assets owned by other entities or in joint tenancies can be added to the estate; gifts or distributions can be added back to the estate and superannuation proceeds can be used to calculate the value of the estate.

The court heard that Wran’s second wife, Mrs Hickson Wran owns much of the wealth in her late husband’s notional estate, and under the terms of the will received his personal effects. Such assets included their $3.5 million Woollahra home, a $2 million rural property in Ravensdale and a $6 million waterfront holiday home in Palm Beach.

Glenn Wran has submitted to the court that he was not provided fair provision under his father’s will. The matter will return to court July 31.

Can adopted children challenge a will?

Legally adopted children have full rights under the law to challenge a will if they feel they haven’t been fairly provided for, as do children and step-children of the deceased.

What happens if the will left everything to his second wife?

This is such a common reason why estate battles erupt. We often see the relationship between the children from the first marriage and the new spouse deteroriorate rapidly. It might be that the spouse is trying to cut off the children from claiming any of their parent’s assets, or the children are trying to freeze out the new spouse from the marital home or other assets. When it comes to blended families and inheritance, it is always complex.

What should I do if I have a blended family?

  • Understand that you must provide fairly for your spouse, your children, your step-children and your adopted children. Failure to do so opens the door to litigation over your estate.
  • Understand that it is common for your new spouse and your children from your previous marriage not to get along, especially after your death. You should make specific provision for all family members rather than hoping that they will ‘do the right thing’.
  • Understand that you need specialist legal advice. Succession law is complex.

If you need advice about your will and your blended family, contact us today for your free 10-minute phone consultation.