Wills & estate planning Case Study – the simple will under the kitchen cabinet

After Brett Whitely (a famous Australian artist) and his wife Wendy were divorced, Mr Whitely acquired a girlfriend. When Mr Whitely died, the existence of and location of a will was uncertain. At the time of his death, if Mr Whitely’s girlfriend had been able to prove that she was his de facto wife, in the absence of a will she would have been entitled to the major portion of Brett Whitely’s estate, valued at around $14 million.

Court proceedings ultimately saw evidence that Mr Whitely, who had had enough of lawyers after his divorce battle, had written out his own will in 1991 and taped it under a drawer of the kitchen cabinet in his studio. The court ultimately ruled in favour of the “kitchen drawer will” but the case highlights the significant difficulties that can arise in not having a will or having a will that is home-made and might ultimately be misplaced.

While a simple will might work for some, in many cases it will almost certainly result in more costly and time-consuming outcomes with potentially unhappy and frustrated beneficiaries contesting it.

Structuring an effective estate plan designed to remove—or at least minimise—any risk that your estate will be involved in litigation is the principle of what we are trying to achieve.

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