The seven-year estate mystery of who was eligible to receive a $1.2 million Queensland estate has been solved after an investigation to find out who the woman with no birth certificate was. Phyllis Mary Hoskin died in 2009 at the recorded age of 93 without spouse, children or will, leaving behind a $1.2 million estate. In instances where people die without a will the estate would generally go to a next of kin determined by her family lineage, however Ms Hoskin was found to have no recorded birth certificate, which resulted in an investigation into who was eligible for her million dollar estate.
According to Supreme Court documents, Phyllis was raised by Aaron Hoskin and his wife Margaret Hoskin in a large pastoral property at Bell, near Dalby. After Mr Hoskin died in 1938 Phyllis inherited 20 per cent of his estate and moved to Brisbane. Importantly, Mr Hoskin referred to Phyllis as his daughter in his will. A search through records revealed only one recorded birth was listed for a child born ‘Phillis King’ on that date to an unmarried woman named Johanna King at Brisbane’s Lady Bowen Hospital.
After more than a month of investigations, the court found the $1.2 million dollar estate be divided between descendants of the Hoskin family.
What happens if you die with an estate mystery?
Intestacy Rules are in place to determine how your estate will be distributed if you die without a valid will.
The intestacy rules govern the distribution of your Estate to your next of kin such as your spouse, de facto and issue (children, grandchildren).
If there is no spouse or issue, then provision is made for your parents, brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces, then grandparents, then uncles, aunts and cousins. There is no provision for distribution of your Estate to relatives more remote than your first cousins.
Your in-laws are not classified as next of kin and are not included in the rules for the distribution of your Estate. A step-parent is not next of kin and neither is a mother-in-law or a father-in-law.
The specific rules that outline what happens if you die without a will are:
If there is only one surviving spouse, the spouse is entitled to the whole of the estate.
If there is only one surviving spouse, the spouse is entitled to: $150,000 and the household chattels; and a share of the balance of the estate depending on the number of surviving children and grandchildren.
Where there is no surviving spouse, and if the Intestate had only one child and the child survived, the child takes the whole estate. If the Intestate had two or more children, all of whom survived, the children take the whole estate in equal shares.
Where there is no surviving spouse and no surviving issue, the parent or parents receive the whole estate (if both survive, in equal shares).
If there is no spouse, issue or parents the brothers and/or sisters take the whole estate in equal shares. If the Intestate had two or more brothers and/or sisters, of whom some survived and the remainder did not survive and did not leave surviving issue, the surviving brothers and/or sisters take the whole estate in equal shares. Where there are brothers and sisters who pre-deceased the Intestate, their children are entitled to the share that would have otherwise gone to the brother/sister.
Where there is no spouse, issue, parents, brothers or sisters, nephews and/ or nieces take the whole estate in equal shares. Grandparent or grandparents will share the estate in equal shares if no nephews and nieces.
Uncles and/ or aunts are next in line to receive the estate and if they have pre-deceased the Intestate, their children are entitled to their share.
First cousins are the final familial relationship who are entitled to claim. First cousins would receive an equal share of the estate.
Where no family members can be found, the estate is deemed to be bona vacantia and the Crown receives the whole.
Avoiding an estate mystery
As you can see, dying without a will restricts the estate to a set of rigid rules set out by the government that makes no allowances for personal circumstances or the structure of the estate. It also means that solving a mystery estate takes a lot of time, effort and money. You can avoid this situation by drafting a will that takes into account your family, your assets, your wishes and includes thoughtful consideration of issues such as taxation. This area of the law is quite complex, and we recommend that you consult a specialist.
We offer a free, 10-minute phone consultation. Contact us today. If you don’t want to leave behind an estate mystery or you know someone who has, feel free to speak to one of our professionals today.