When Darrell Triffett died in 2013, he was survived by his partner of about 40 years, a daughter aged 47 and two sons aged 38 and 30.
The daughter, Tanya Booth, was the child of Triffett and the younger sister of Triffett’s partner. As a young child Booth was cared for by her mother’s parents. Later she lived with her mother and stepfather.
Triffett’s estate was worth about $6 million, made up of about $1.3 million of real estate, $1.1 million of cash and shares in a company that had substantial cash holdings.
He had started a log carting business, which he built up into a substantial operation with 13 trucks at one stage. He later ran a successful farming business.
The entirety of the estate was left to Triffett’s partner, with the provision that if she did not survive Triffett the estate would be put in trust for the sons’ benefit.
Booth challenged the will in the Tasmanian Supreme Court.
In a note to clients, law firm Mills Oakley says the case, Booth v Brooks, highlights “the circumstances that the court will consider when deciding a claim for family provision.”
According to Tasmanian law, “any person by whom or on whose behalf application for provision may be made under this Act is left without adequate provision for his proper maintenance and support thereafter, the court may… order that such provision… be made out of the estate.”
The daughter had to establish that she had been “left without adequate provision for her proper maintenance and support.”
The court said the circumstances that had to be considered included: the applicant’s financial position; the size and nature of the estate; the totality of the relationship between the applicant and the deceased; and the relationship between the deceased and other people with legitimate claims.
The court said that in the case of an adult child, abnegation of parental responsibility during childhood increases the moral obligation of the testator (will maker) to the child.
The court was satisfied that Booth had been left without adequate provision. It said Triffett had shown “little regard and affection” to the daughter throughout her childhood and adult life, and provided no direct financial support.
Between 1995 and 2008 Booth lived in a cottage on her father’s property, rent free.
It also found that she was not in a strong financial position at the time of her father’s death and did not have good prospects for improving her position in life.
She was unemployed, dependent on the public welfare system and had no assets.
The court decided that an estate of $6 million provided ample funds to provide for Booth while also providing for the other family members.
The court awarded her $800,000, which it figured was enough for her to buy a home and maintain it, as well as cover some living and medical expenses.