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Successful Part IV claim by adult stepson; unsuccessful Part IV claim by partner

Lizia Lim

In the case of Szarvas v Tizzano; Muller v Tizzano [2014] VSC 620, the deceased died without a Will, leaving two adult daughters, a stepson, and a partner, Zsuzsanna, who did not qualify as a domestic partner under the intestacy provisions. The two adult daughters were equal beneficiaries under the intestacy provisions.Two separate Part IV claims for provision from the estate were brought by the deceased’s stepson and by the deceased’s partner Zsuzsanna.

Zsuzsanna had lived with the deceased as his domestic partner for a period of about 2 and a half years. The relationship ceased for about 3 months, after which they reconciled and remained partners for the remaining 2 years until the deceased’s death. They did not live together during the second period of their relationship, but spent 2 or 3 nights a week together. At the date of trial, Zsuzsanna was 71 years old, owned a unit in Canterbury, property in Hungary, had $130,000 in savings and received Hungarian and Australian pensions.

The deceased’s stepson Jozsef had a close relationship with the deceased, lasting 25 years until the deceased’s death. The relationship was akin to that of father and son during this time. The estate property was purchased jointly by the deceased and Jozsef’s mother, and when Jozsef’s mother died, the deceased had received the property by survivorship. At the date of trial Jozsef did not own any real property and his gross income was $55,000 per annum.

The deceased’s two daughters lived in the Netherlands and Hungary respectively. Each had a disabled child and were earning low incomes. 

The net estate available for division was approximately $400,000, after all parties’ costs.

The Court ordered that:

  • Zsuzsanna’s claim be dismissed, as her relationship with the deceased was not of long standing, and her financial position was comfortable in comparison with the deceased’s daughters and stepson. She failed to establish the requisite need for provision.
  • Jozsef to receive provision from the estate in the amount of $150,000, due to his long and close relationship with the deceased, the contributions made by his mother to the estate, and his financial needs.
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