The distress following the death of a loved one can be greatly exacerbated by a subsequent inheritance dispute, for instance, an aggrieved relative claiming a share of the estate.
Dealing with a loved one’s estate is a stressful and emotional time but if this is compounded by a probate dispute, it is likely to be far more difficult.
Disputed Wills and other inheritance disputes are on the rise, and the courts are increasingly bold in ruling in favour of claimants.
To help those deal with an inheritance dispute, the lawyers at Selachii LLP have put together an easy to follow guide.
First things first, what may lead to an inheritance dispute?
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Probate disputes can involve claims against the estate for a number of reasons, including:
Lack of provision: a dependant of the deceased, such as a spouse or child, who claims not to have been sufficiently provided for by the Will (or under the statutory intestacy rules) can bring a claim within 6 months under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. The court will take into account a number of factors before allowing such a claim.
The Will has not been properly executed: there are strict legal rules as to how a Will must be signed and witnessed. If those rules have not been complied with, it will be invalid and the intestacy rules will apply.
The deceased lacked mental capacity (or lacked knowledge or approval of the contents of the Will) when the Will was made. The law requires that an individual making a Will must have sufficient ‘testamentary capacity’ for the Will to be valid.
The courts have ruled that even bereavement can render a person mentally incapable of making a Will. Where a Will seems ‘suspicious’, a claimant may bring a claim on the basis of lack of knowledge or approval.
Put simply, the testator must know and understand the contents of the Will, and what will happen to his assets under the terms of the Will.
Fraud or undue influence: evidence of coercion or fraud must be produced to support such a claim. For instance, a Will might be shown to be fraudulent if a potential beneficiary was excluded that would otherwise have benefited on the basis of misrepresentations made by someone else.
How can inheritance disputes be resolved?
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Inheritance disputes can lead to expensive litigation that can drain an estate of its assets, but litigation can be avoided by negotiating a settlement.
Experienced probate lawyers strive to bring probate disputes to a swift resolution without going to court. Settling claims is cost effective, time efficient – and can reduce the distress many people go through.
Selachii LLP advise clients to settle inheritance disputes as early as possible through Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). Mediation, in particular, is a proven method of bringing the parties together to work towards a mutually agreeable settlement.
If mediation is unsuccessful, the claimant will then have to issue proceedings in court. However, most cases are settled before they get to trial.
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