I am often asked by clients about “disentitling conduct” in the context of a claim for further provision from an estate by a child of a deceased.
Clients generally raise with me things that the claimant has done to the deceased and the deceased’s family throughout the deceased’s lifetime, and want to know whether the claimant’s conduct disentitles them from making a claim.
The essence of disentitling conduct is where a person treats a will maker so badly throughout their life time and they get left out of the will because of that conduct.
However, what actually amounts to disentitling conduct is up to the court. Currently the definition of what conduct is in fact disentitling is somewhat unclear, as most matters concerning disentitling conduct are settled at mediation, not making it to the court for a judge to consider and make law.
It is clear from the recent case in Western Australia, Christie v Christie  WASC 45, that physical violence toward a testator for a long period of time may well amount to disentitling conduct.
The facts of this case are:
Master Sanderson was convinced that taking into account the history of the relationship between the plaintiff and the deceased, the plaintiff had been excluded from his mother’s will and her life because he treated her badly over a long period of time.
It is important to remember that where a claimant is estranged from the deceased, this does not automatically mean there has been disentitling conduct. Whether there has been conduct that is disentitling is determined by current attitudes and expectations in the community. The case of Christie v Christie shows that where there has been violence toward a testator over a long period of time, this may well amount to disentitling conduct.
If you have any concerns in relation to disentitling conduct, please do not hesitate to contact me.