June 24, 2019
We all hope that when the time comes, we will have put our affairs in order, properly prepared our Will and that those to whom we are leaving our estate are comfortable with how we’ve decided to distribute our assets. For the majority, the Will is the way and, although probate can be a lengthy process, all will go smoothly.
But what happens when you’re not comfortable with the contents of a Will or there is no Will at all? When family wrangles come to a head after a death, you may not be happy with the deceased’s intentions or their failure to make their wishes clear.
A word of caution: usually we learn of the contents of a Will (or that there is no Will) at a time when we are still grieving and coming to terms with the death of a family member. Emotions can be heightened and we may react differently from how we might otherwise. So, take time to think carefully about whether you wish to dispute a Will, or the default arrangements that arise where no Will exists, as doing so can affect relationships within the family for a long time to come.
Why would you challenge a will?
First things first. Is the Will a valid document? Has it been properly signed and witnessed? Once you have established that a Will is valid, other possible reasons to challenge a Will include:
- Was the deceased of “sound mind, memory and understanding” when they made their Will i.e were they mentally capable?
- Were they unduly pressured or influenced to make a Will against their own wishes?
- Did they really understand fully the contents of the Will?
- Is the Will a forgery or fraudulently created?
- Has there been another Will created more recently?
- Are the assets detailed in the Will the property of the deceased i.e were they theirs to pass on in the first place?
Whether or not there is a Will, a dependent who has not been sufficiently provided for may be able to seek a greater share of the estate.
What are the next steps?
If you are concerned about an inheritance or are thinking of challenging what has happened with an estate, it is best to get some legal advice quickly. It is better to notify the executor (or personal representative) before the assets of the estate are distributed. If the assets have already been distributed, it is still possible to challenge an estate, but it will be more complicated.
Watch out though because a dispute about inheritance can lead to contested court proceedings and, if it turns out that you are not successful, the court will probably order you to pay the majority of the costs incurred by all the parties involved.
A helping hand
Are you wanting some advice about disputing an estate that you’re not happy with or is someone else challenging an estate where you are an executor or beneficiary? Our specialist legal team can guide you through the complexities in order to find a resolution. Please get in touch to arrange a consultation.