Phochai v Matthews [2020] NZFC 5155

Published 01 March 2021

Contested will — assessment of quantum — valuation of overseas property — proper maintenance and support — adequate provision — de facto relationship — Property (Relationships) Act 1976 — Family Protection Act 1955. Note: award reduced to $750,000 at appeal in [2020] NZHC 3455. This hearing was to determine the quantum of payout for the applicant widow from the testator's estate. There had been competing claims against the testator's estate under the Property (Relationships) Act ("PRA") and the Family Protection Act ("FPA"), contending that his will did not adequately provide for his children and the applicant. In the substantive judgment, the Judge declined to set aside a contracting out agreement between the testator and the applicant, but determined that some payout to her from the estate was justified. The applicant had an interest in three properties in Thailand, which she initially submitted was worth NZD $59,000. The testator's son claimed the properties were together worth NZD $1.8 million. Both parties subsequently provided valuations for the properties; the applicant's from a provincial land office and the respondent's through a law firm in Bangkok from a consultancy firm. The Judge preferred the respondent's valuation as a more reliable one. It came in at NZD $105,000, well below the NZD $1.8 million estimated by the respondent and much closer to the applicant's initial valuation. In assessing the quantum of payout the Judge considered what was reasonable for her proper maintenance and support, looking at various factors including the relationship between the applicant and the testator, the applicant's age and earning ability, and the fact that her property was located overseas and she had no intention of returning. The Judge made an award of NZD $1 million to the applicant. Judgment Date: 7 August 2020.