Inheritance disputes can be an unsettling, costly and time-consuming situation for all of the individuals involved. When writing your will, it’s important to consider how the choices you’re making will be received by beneficiaries or those you’ve left out of your final testament.
Inheritance disputes occur when an individual makes a claim against a testator’s estate. In doing this, they will either contest or challenge the will. The approach that is taken will be dependent on the distinct context of the claim being made. Once an inheritance dispute has been filed it can either be settled through mediation or, if a mutual decision cannot be reached, in court.
Prior to taking action against the estate, it’s crucial that you understand your rights and can explicitly define the outcome you’re aiming to achieve. In addition to this, by gaining expert assistance and advice from professional inheritance lawyers you can determine the legal merit of your case.
Often, law firms that have extensive experience in inheritance disputes offer potential clients a free, no-obligation initial consultation. After a testator passes away, those wanting to make a claim only have a period of nine months to do so. If you’re unsure of whether to pursue a case or not, it would be suggested that you meet with an inheritance lawyer promptly to discuss your options.
However it’s important to note that, in many cases such circumstances can be avoided. If the testator of a will takes appropriate action prior to their passing, there is the potential to minimise the likelihood that their will will be disputed in future.
1. Avoiding Inheritance Disputes By Creating an Estate Plan
If an individual passes away without a valid will, they are said to have died intestate. Intestacy is a common catalyst for inheritance disputes, as the deceased failed to leave behind any legally binding indication of how they would like their estate to be managed.
In some cases, a testator may pass away partially intestate. Essentially, this means that they’ve distributed some of their assets in a valid will, but others have been left unaccounted for. Such instances may occur if the deceased individuals’ will hasn’t been recently updated and, since their last valid wills’ creation, they’ve acquired new assets. In cases of intestacy, regardless of whether the estate in question is partially or fully intestate, any assets that haven’t been mentioned will be administered as the court sees fit.
When there is no clear direction provided by the testator regarding how their estate ought to be managed, as you may expect, inheritance disputes often arise. Creating a comprehensive estate plan is crucial in ensuring your assets are managed as you desire, while also helping to avoid family feuds that may otherwise foster.
2. Communication is Key in Avoiding Inheritance Disputes
Once you’ve written a valid will, explaining and addressing the division of certain assets to beneficiaries can assist in avoiding future inheritance disputes. By ensuring that each individual has a clear understanding of why exactly you’ve made the decisions in your will, the likelihood of disputes arising due to unexpected administrations and miscommunications can be lowered.
For instance, if a parent’s estate was split between their children unequally this would likely foster heightened emotions from those who feel they’ve been left worse off. There might, however, be a perfectly reasonable explanation as to why the testator ended up dividing their estate as they did. In such cases, simply speaking with their children or leaving a letter explaining why exactly they chose to share their assets unequally could be enough to avoid inheritance disputes that may otherwise arise.
An occasion where this may be particularly beneficial is one where the testator lent a large sum of money to one child who was paying them back in a number of instalments. If at the time of the parents’ passing the loan has not yet been repaid in full, the testator may decide to give the child a smaller sum of their estate than their siblings. This may, without any explanation, appear unfair. However as the parent has simply taken into account the payments they are owed, the amount each child received is in fact equal.
In such cases, the true meaning behind certain decisions can be clearly conveyed to ensure that there is a mutual understanding between all of those involved. This can, in turn, help the testator avoid inheritance disputes after their passing as everyone is well aware of their reasoning. There is, however, still the potential that beneficiaries or those left out of the deceased’s will will still be unhappy with the distribution of the estate and contest it.
3. Keep Your Estate Plan Updated to Avoid Inheritance Disputes
Your circumstances are constantly changing, and it’s important that your will is frequently updated to reflect this. Whether you acquire a new, valuable asset or enter into a marriage your final will needs to address how you wish your estate to be managed in your current situation.
In Victoria, for instance, many individuals do not know that once you remarry your previous will becomes invalid. As such, if you fail to create a new one prior to your passing you will be deemed to have died intestate.
For more information regarding inheritance disputes, it would be suggested that you speak with expert inheritance lawyers today.