A niece believed that her uncle’s beach house had been bought for her, and that she was to inherit this when he died. Unfortunately this was not in his Will, and not documented at all.

The man had left much of his fortune to a Trust, with his niece named as one of the discretionary beneficiaries of the Trust.  Under the Trust, the niece was to receive at least $25,000 annually, and she was also given a lump sum of $500,000 under the Will.

The woman said that her uncle had purchased the beach house for her for $340,000 following the break-up of her marriage in 2009. The beach house was formerly owned by her and her ex-husband.

The executors’ position was that the deceased purchased the property for himself and wanted his niece to use it from time to time, but he intended to retain the ownership of it.  The niece told the Court that she had a close relationship with her Uncle since she was a teenager.  After her marriage broke down, and during the uncle’s lifetime, he bought her a car, paid her rent for 5 years and the legal fees for her divorce totalling almost $100,000. 

The Court found that the deceased had taken no steps to establish a Trust including the beach house for his niece, or transfer it to his niece during his lifetime. 

He had assisted her during his lifetime and left her a large bequest under his Estate. He also made her a beneficiary of his Trust, so she could receive an annual income. 

Because the niece was named in the Will, it was clear to the Court that the man had already considered the niece’s position and made a substantial provision for her. The High Court rejected her claim.

It is important that intentions are kept very clear and that written agreements are drawn up to deal with property.  If this had been done properly during the man’s lifetime, the niece would not have needed to go to Court in relation to the beach house as his intentions would have been clearly documented.

The uncle’s Estate was also the subject of a claim by his three estranged children. They received $1.25 million each from his large estate (he had won $17 million on Lotto).  Our article on that case can be found here: https://www.raineycollins.co.nz/your-resources/articles/2020-03-02


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Shaun Cousins
Associate