Money and property are no longer the only riches people are interested in inheriting; it appears from a recent NSW case that being left ‘personal effects’ can unintentionally make you just as wealthy. Using this term in your will could effectively leave your loved ones with too much or too little!
In this case the deceased left his three children all of his estate to be divided equally amongst them. He then left his second wife the ‘household furniture and furnishings and personal effects’.
Dissatisfied with what she received the wife brought proceedings against the deceased’s children claiming that ‘personal effects’ included: money on term deposit, the house, shares in public companies and the deceased’s Mercedes Benz, adding to a total worth of $3 million.
When considering the term ‘personal effects’ most of us would assume it to mean smaller items such as jewellery and memorabilia. However, the Judge in this case has taught us a valuable lesson by clarifying ‘personal effects’ as being ‘items specially and personally used’ by the deceased. Abiding by that definition the wife was not entitled to any money, shares or the house, but she was entitled to the $60,000 Mercedes Benz.
This case is an important reminder about the significance of correctly drafting your will, as what may seem obvious to you might lead to confusion after your death. Instead of using the term ‘personal effects’ each significant item should be documented to ensure it is left to the right person. This is also increasingly important in regards to the growing interest in family history and memorabilia, things of sentimental value that cannot be sold and split equally.