Making The Decision To Challenge A Will

Written by on October 3, 2012 in Family - No comments | Print this page

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The passing of a loved one is a very traumatic time. Many families suffer through an emotional roller coaster as they plan funeral arrangements, contact loved ones to inform them of the news and deal with the deceased’s estate. It is an unfortunate reality that, when it comes to read the Will, feelings of grief and loss can be made even worse when some family members discover that they have been completely neglected. It is a difficult situation to be in, especially if relationships between family members are already frayed. However, those who feel they have been unjustly left out of inheritance may be eligible to contest a Will.

 

Why Do People Contest Wills?

Complex and extended family networks can easily result in some members being completely overlooked in a Will. Remarriages, half-siblings and step-children can make Will proceedings extremely complicated. The Inheritance Act of 1975 sets legal provisions for disappointed beneficiaries, i.e., those who have been omitted. If the deceased has supported a person for at least two years before they died, such as a child, spouse or other dependents, they have an obligation to provide for them in their Will. However, there are also other reasons why someone may contest a Will.

Valid Reasons For Contesting

DIY Wills are becoming increasingly commonplace, and those who are looking to cut costs on solicitor’s fees often turn to websites that offer cheap and quicker alternatives. However, if the proper formalities and procedures have not been carried out and the Will was not signed or witnesses were not present, the Will can be considered invalid. Another common reason to contest is if the deceased could be considered to have been of unsound mind when making the will.

Typically, if the deceased was sick or dying, omitted beneficiaries attempt to make the argument that they were not of sound mind to be drafting and consenting to a binding legal document. There have also been cases of forgery being committed to change the beneficiaries of Wills.

How To Contest A Will

Although it is a stressful and difficult period of time, Will disputes must be filed quickly. Some families maybe able to settle any disputes amicably between themselves. Although the outcome of the Will won’t be changed, if relatives are close and on friendly terms, arrangements could be made to see that omitted beneficiaries are given financial recompense. Be advised, however, that any agreements made will have little, if any, legal standing.

Before formal legal proceedings are considered, professional mediators can be hired. Although this can be costly, it is a graceful way to settle disputes between parties. The mediators will hear both sides and try to bring about a peaceful, amicable compromise.

If legal action is going to be pursued, specialist solicitors or law firms should be consulted. It is a complex area of the law, and they will be best informed and experienced to let challengers know if their claim is valid and whether they should proceed. A case can take years and may delay inheritance for both sides, but it may be necessary for some cases where peaceful resolution cannot be brought about.

A Difficult Decision

Those who are considering contesting a Will should be prepared for lengthy proceedings. The law is complex in this area and, not only should they seek specialist legal advice, but they should also very seriously consider whether they have a strong claim to contest. Claimants must have proof or a valid, legitimate reason; simply thinking that a Will is unfair or assuming that you should have been given more money are typically not strong reasons to file proceedings.

This is a guest post.  This post was written in partnership with Blanchards law, experts in family law matters.

Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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