A Tasmanian woman cut out from her father’s will after a dispute with him has been awarded $400,000 of his estate following his death.
Kara Michelle Browning’s father Donald John Browning died aged 77 in May 2020.
At the time, he had an estate worth about $720,000, which included a New Norfolk property, its contents, a car, a motor home and about $200,000 in a bank account.
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Before a dispute with his daughter in 2019, Kara was to inherit the contents of the house and half of the estate, besides the vehicles, which were to be given to Donald’s granddaughters.
The other half of the estate was to be given to Donald’s son Kirk.
However, after a falling out during a holiday together in Canada, Donald refused his daughter access to his home and had her return her set of keys.
Kara Browning and her dad Donald. Credit: Facebook
“There is no suggestion that the daughter had engaged in any disentitling conduct,” Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Holt said in his decision last week.
A week before his death, Donald wrote a new will, which outlined that Kara would only receive the contents of the home and the rest of the estate would be divided equally between Kirk and Donald’s friend and neighbour Michael Higgins.
Kirk was also the beneficiary of $274,000 from his father’s superannuation account, meaning under the new will, he would receive a total of $580,000.
Kara challenged her father’s will in the Supreme Court and in considering the claim, Justice Holt noted that she worked full-time as a driver and had about $60,000 in superannuation.
But after paying child support and all her living expenses, she has “little or nothing left over”.
“She has no private health insurance,” he said.
“She does not own any real estate, does not have any significant savings, and her car is old.”
On the other hand, Kirk “had prospects of future home ownership after his divorce, and the prospect of improving his financial position prior to reaching retirement age.”
“There is nothing to suggest that Mr Browning favoured one child over the other until he fell out with his daughter in 2019,” Justice Holt said.
“Aside from the last few months of Mr Browning’s life, there is nothing to suggest that one child contributed more to Mr Browning’s well-being than the other.
“Mr Browning enjoyed a close relationship with his neighbour and friend, Mr Higgins, over a lengthy period of time, but only included him in his will when he changed it to substitute him for his daughter as an equal beneficiary of the residuary estate.”
Justice Holt found Kara was left “without adequate provision … for her proper maintenance and support”.
“The estate, although not large, was sufficient in size to accommodate financial provision being made to the applicant to enhance her chances of owning a home, having a buffer against contingencies, attending to medical needs and, at least in the form of owning a home, having security in later life,” he said.
“The claims of the primary beneficiaries were not sufficient to negate an obligation on the part of a just and wise father, assumed to be aware of all relevant circumstances, to make a material financial bequest to his daughter to improve her future prospects.”
Kara will now receive $400,000, as well as the contents of the home.
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