Can a verbal promise made before death be grounds to contest a Will in NSW? Well, it depends.  

When a verbal promise is made before someone passes away but is not formally added to their will, it can often be a complicated process to ensure that the agreement is honoured after death.  

For a verbal promise to be considered as grounds to contest a will, the applicant would need to provide: 

  • Evidence of the promise: You need to prove that the deceased person made a promise regarding the distribution of their assets or property before their death. This includes collating all information that explicitly states the promise, such as emails, letters, voice mails/recordings, text messages, a detailed oral statement or a witness.  
  • Reliance on the promise: You need to demonstrate that you, as the person contesting the will, reasonably relied on the promise the deceased person made to you to your detriment. This means that you changed your position, for example, by foregoing opportunities or making financial decisions, based on the promise made.  
  • Lack of provision: You will need to present evidence that the will does not adequately provide for you or that you were left without adequate provision. For example, you might’ve been verbally promised property or financial assets, however in the  deceased person’s will you’ve only been left material or sentimental items.  

Claims relevant to where a deceased person had made a promise to leave them a particular asset on their death and that said person relied on that promise to their detriment are otherwise referred to as a promissory estoppel claim.  The most important key point to remember is that the promised person must have relied on the verbal promise to their own detriment.  

An example where a promissory estoppel could apply is where an individual quits their job and moves in with a family member to care for them under the verbal promise that after they pass the individual will receive their house. This individual made emotional, physical and financial decisions under the guise that they would receive assets from a family member, however these promises aren’t reflected in the deceased person’s last will.  

Contesting a will by the remedy law of promissory estoppel is often a complicated and lengthy process which is why it is best to contact a lawyer to navigate this process and assist in contesting a will on these grounds.  

Reach out to our friendly team today for a free first assessment.