Information & Articles

The Impact Of Death On Family Law Proceedings

Several years ago, I acted for a husband in a family law property matter. He was in his 70s, a senior professional man. The wife was in her 50s. They had one adult child. As sometimes happens, there was not a lot of co-operation from one party, in this case the wife, in pursuing the matter. She was living in the jointly held home. Nothing unusual about this so far. My client, although in good health, was concerned about his future and instructed me to sever the joint tenancy on the home so that he could make provisions for his estate as he chose. I did so. As a result, the wife filed property proceedings.

The husband decided to proceed with an application for divorce. That was heard before he had responded to the wife’s property application. On the day we went to the divorce hearing, he informed me in passing that the wife was returning that evening from an overseas trip. The divorce order was made. On we went.

The next day, I had a number of missed calls from the wife’s lawyer. I then heard from my client. The wife, on her return to Sydney, aged in her mid 50s, suffered some sort of condition upon exiting the plane (possibly deep vein thrombosis) and died.

And so we found ourselves in the position with which this paper is concerned: the impact of (the wife’s) death on the property proceedings (initiated by her).

To read our paper, click here (pdf, 563kb)