What can we learn from the Hollywood Movie….Knives Out

If you haven’t seen Knives Out the 2019 American Mystery film directed by Rian Johnson because you did something other than binge-watch every TV and Movie ever created, during the many lockdowns we’ve had over the past 2 years, here’s a very brief run down:

  • Elderly father and grandfather ‘Harlan Thrombey’ dies under mysterious circumstances
  • Spoilt and entitled children and grandchildren disinherited in last-minute Will rewrite
  • Elderly father’s nurse and carer ‘Marta’ is left everything.


Spoiler Alert….

The movie ends with Marta walking off into the sunset with EVERYTHING. Now, audiences are pretty happy with this because she was a good person and the rest of the Thrombey clan were pretty greedy and self-centred.

Is this just a Hollywood script or should the children have claim to the Estate?

To play devils advocate, the above might fly in America but in Australia, some of those greedy kids would have a pretty considerable claim to old Harlem’s treasure trove, regardless of the Will. They could choose to contest the validity of the last-minute Will by proving that Harlem lacked testamentary capacity to make it. However, Harlem was pretty switched-on right to the end, so they’d probably be hard-pressed to prove he lacked testamentary capacity in Court.

What is a Family Provision Claim?

The better avenue would be what’s called a Family Provision Claim (FPC). Harlem’s children could bring this claim as they are a member of the class of person’s who have standing to do so. Harlem’s grandchildren could also bring a FPA if they could prove that they were either wholly or partially dependent upon Harlem.

The courts decide FPCs based on need. Obviously, deciding what someone needs is both subjective and relative. What an average person needs to live a life of dignity and security is probably vastly different to what the Thrombeys’ think they need, and what the courts would conclude is anyone’s guess.

Do the children have a claim?

Notwithstanding the above, Linda runs a pretty successful publishing company so she would find it difficult to prove she needed a cut of her father’s estate. However, poor old Walt might have a real chance. Walt not only got disinherited but was also sacked by Harlem from his job running Harlem’s book printing business, a day before he died. Furthermore, Walt’s only professional experience was working for his father and this was his only source of income. Yes, Walt wasn’t the most likeable character, in fact he generally only incited pity or revulsion, but as far as need goes he could make a strong case.

Do the grandchildren have a claim?

Meg too might be able to get the courts to carve out a piece of her grandfather’s estate for her. Mainly, because Meg relied on Harlem to pay for her education, which the courts could consider constituted a partial dependency.

Lastly, who could forget the perfectly casted Chris Evans playing the role of the beautiful but deadly Ransom. Ransom took the murderous road in his pursuit of his grandfather’s millions, which is unfortunate because he doesn’t give the impression he would cope well in prison. It’s particularly sad because of how unnecessary his actions were. Yes, yes, ok Ransom’s actions were necessary for the plot. Putting that to one side, Ransom was a full-blown adult who never had a job and lived off of his grandfather’s money his entire adult life. Consequently, Ransom and Harlem’s relationship paints a pretty convincing case of dependency.  Of course, there are many factors that the courts consider when deciding FPCs and they might think that Ransom’s laziness and playboy lifestyle doesn’t warrant being given part of his grandfather’s estate. Nevertheless, if it’s a choice between murder and making a Family Provision Claim, I know which one I would choose.

What options do you have?

If you feel like you have been left out of a Will and would like to explore your options you can read our blog.

It is important to seek prompt legal advice on your eligibility and likelihood of success prior to commencing a family provision claim noting that there are strict timeframes to bring a claim. This will allow you to weigh up the costs, timeframe and emotional toll of court proceedings against the likelihood your claim will be successful.

For more information call us on 9523 5535

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is provided as general information only. It is not intended to be legal advice and it should not be used or relied on as legal or professional advice.

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