Your Ex Inherits Everything in Your Estate: A Modern-Day Nightmare

Case Study

Maria and her husband Mario (*names changed to protect identity) separated many years ago after having a long marriage and three children together. Both lived in Victoria.

Maria and Mario did an informal family law property settlement, transferring the family home and other assets into Maria’s name alone. Importantly, they never formally separated by applying for a divorce in the Family Court. Maria and Mario were ‘old-school’ and from a cultural background where divorce is frowned upon.

Maria never re-partnered. Mario had several partners since separation but never formally re-married.

Some years later, Maria unfortunately developed cancer, and sadly, the disease claimed her life. She left three grieving adult children and an estate worth an estimated $4 million. A search amongst Maria’s papers did not locate a will. The conclusion was that Maria died intestate (without a valid will), and the intestacy statute in Victoria dictated the distribution of her estate.

The result was that Mario inherited everything from Maria because he was still her legal spouse. The distress the situation caused to Maria’s adult children cannot be understated, leaving a rift between them and their father.

As estate planning lawyers, we urge clients to formalise their marital status while applying for a divorce in the Family Court of Australia and to make or update their estate planning documents if their circumstances change.

If you are recently separated, don’t wait any longer – take the first step towards protecting your loved ones from potential turmoil and securing your estate by formalising your divorce and updating your will today. 

Click here to speak to one of our estate planning specialist lawyers. Email us at or phone us at 03 9592 3356.

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