Jane and Simon’s mother, Jill, had set up her trust after separating from Jane and Simon’s father. It owned her family home as well as an investment portfolio worth around $2m which Jill had received from her parents’ trust. She had put the assets into the trust, as she was adamant that she would protect those assets for Jane and Simon in the same way her parents had protected their assets for her.
After being single for ten years following her separation, Jill fell in love with a new man. Paul was very charming and swept Jill off her feet. He was younger than Jill and from what Jane and Simon could tell, didn’t seem to have any assets of his own. He quickly moved into Jill’s home and while Jill was very happy, Jane and Simon had their concerns. While their mother had invested well, and of course, her beautiful home close to the beach in Takapuna was now worth a small fortune with the rise of the Auckland housing market, it did seem as though Paul was living the life of Riley with their mother.
Sadly, four years after meeting Paul, Jill developed an aggressive form of breast cancer. She was diagnosed in July and by the end of September, Jane and Simon knew their mother wouldn’t be with them for much longer. They didn’t discuss her will or the trust with her as it was too painful, but they knew that their mother had structured her affairs in a way which protected the assets for Jane and Simon and their children.
Jill passed away in early October and a few weeks later, Jane and Simon had a meeting with their mother’s lawyer. The lawyer explained that in the middle of September he had been to visit Jill as she had been too ill to visit his office. She had wanted to change her will and the structure of the trust. The family home had been taken out of the trust and moved into Jill and Paul’s joint names, meaning that upon Jill’s death, the home passed to Paul outright as survivor. Further, Paul had been appointed as a trustee of the trust and also as a beneficiary of the trust and his income needs were to be met from the trust.
Jane and Simon were horrified and were sure that Paul was at the bottom of this – they felt he had unduly influenced their mother to change her affairs to benefit him and they immediately engaged their own lawyer to challenge the way their mother’s affairs had been re-structured.