Disinherited Twins Win 70 Percent of Estranged Dad’s Estate
A father who abandoned his twin daughters at birth, and later disinherited them specifically, did not manage to stop them from inheriting the majority of his Estate after he died.
The history of the matter was unusual: Before the twins were born, the father suggested the mother get an abortion; she was strongly opposed and went on to deliver the babies instead. Then, when the girls were only 10 months old, the father abandoned them outright. The mother raised the girls on her own but later died of complications from pneumonia when the girls were 9 years old.
At that point the father returned to try to wrest custody from the guardians the mother had appointed under her Will. He lost on custody, but was nonetheless awarded what the court called “very generous parenting time” with the girls, which he never bothered to exercise. Instead, he “stubbornly decided to blame them” for his unsuccessful custody bid.
He formally abandoned the twins a second time – never once offering financial support in the years after – and even formally disowned them out of anger and bitterness. He executed a second Will in which he took pains to emphasize they were illegitimate, and to cut them out of any inheritance. The court explained:
The fact that he made it so clear in the first will and the second will that the twins were illegitimate, that he wanted no part of his estate to go to them and instructed his executors to fight any attempt by them to vary his will, speaks volumes about his attitude towards them and his misguided and ill-conceived attempt to punish them for matters beyond their control.
The father died at age 66, leaving his Estate to his two male friends. The twins, now aged 34, went to court to have the father’s Will varied.
They were successful in obtaining an order to that effect. The B.C. court relied on legislation that expressly recognizes a deceased parent’s moral obligation to provide for children. (This is different from the law in Ontario, as illustrated in our Blog from a few years ago, here.) The statute empowers the court to examine the motives behind the father’s steps to disinherit the girls; this exercise led it to conclude that his thinking and conduct was unreasonable in the circumstances. The court wrote:
His rationale for disinheriting the Twins is, I conclude, invalid, irrational, and not based on what a reasonable testator judged by contemporary community standards would or should have done. Indeed, the comments made about the Twins in both wills were unwarranted, cruel, and untrue. They were not what a judicious father in these circumstances discharging is moral duty to his children would have said or done, especially considering the Twins’ difficult upbringing and considering they were the only persons he owed a moral duty to.
The court ultimately awarded each of the twins slightly over $300,000 (with the remaining monies going to the other named beneficiaries under the Will). The court also admonished the father, adding that before his death he “failed in his last opportunity to behave like a judicious father and recognize . . . his moral obligations to the twins.”
For the full text of the decision, see:
Jung v Poole Estate, 2021 BCSC 623
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