Cross-posted from the NZ Herald.
An intellectually disabled teenager has lost a Supreme Court battle for a share in his stepfather’s $2.2 million estate because he was unborn when his mother married.
Alyxe Wood-Luxford was 4 years old when his mother, Wendy Luxford, 35, and stepfather John Luxford, 73, were killed in a three-car crash near Taupo in April 2000.
More than a decade of court battles later, the 17-year-old was yesterday told he is not legally entitled to any inheritance because he was in his mother’s womb when she married Mr Luxford in April 1995. He was not in their wills because they were made out the day after the wedding, six months before he was born.
The wills included Alyxe’s older brother, Logan Wood, who was 10 years old at the time of the wedding.
Logan inherited two-thirds of his mother’s $1.8 million estate and all of his stepfather’s $2.2 million estate and argued against his brother’s attempts for a share in Mr Luxford’s estate.
The decision was yesterday handed down by Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias, Justice Sir John McGrath, and Justice Sir William Young. Justice Susan Glazebrook argued against the decision, and said she would have allowed Alyxe’s appeal to go ahead if she had not been outvoted.
In the decision, Chief Justice Elias said the result centred on whether or not Alyxe was considered “living” at the time of his mother’s marriage to qualify as a stepchild eligible to contest the will under New Zealand law.
“The result is hard for a number of reasons,” her decision stated. “The claimant … has special needs because of intellectual disability and may be thought to have a strong claim to provision out of the estate.
“There is evidence the stepfather gave instructions for a new will, in which the claimant would have benefited equally with his brother, but it was not drawn up …”
The Family Protection Act did not recognise unborn children as stepchildren, the decision said.
(Under the act, to be considered a stepchild, a child has to be “living” when his or her parent marries. Apparently, that rules out Alyxe, even though he was raised from birth by the couple.)
“Although the appeal had highlighted ‘some anomalies and inconsistencies’ in the act which the court thought ‘may warrant the attention of Parliament’, it concluded that it was necessary to dismiss the appeal.”
Alyxe is cared for by his aunt Susan Wood. He could contest a share of his mother’s estate, the decision noting he had a “strong claim”.