Navigating Estate Disputes

February 15, 2024


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Estate disputes can be emotionally challenging and legally complex. Whether you’re a beneficiary, executor, or heir (presumptive or apparent), understanding the process is the important first step to protecting your interests. Below, we aim to demystify estate disputes and explain when and why you may need to seek legal advice.

Understanding estate disputes 

What is an estate dispute? 

An estate dispute arises when there are disagreements among beneficiaries, heirs, or other interested parties regarding the distribution of assets from a deceased person’s estate.

Common reasons for estate disputes

There can be many reasons for estate disputes, the most common being: –

  • lack of a will (intestacy)
  • an ambiguous will
  • disputes over asset distribution
  • claims of undue influence or fraud
  • challenges to the validity of a will

Dealing with estate disputes 

Now that you have a brief overview of what an estate dispute is and the factors that give rise to them, we can go through the steps that can be taken in dealing with estate disputes.

Initial steps 

1: Reviewing the will and other estate documents

It is important to first ascertain the Executor/s. This is the person or people who are named in the will to be responsible for distributing the assets.

Next, the beneficiaries will need to be identified. These are the people named in the will who will receive the assets.

2: Communicate

First, as with all disputes, attempt to communicate with all parties to individually to attempt independent resolution. This could go a long way in avoiding unnecessary legal costs.

Other legal alternatives 

Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

  • less adversarial than litigation
  • confidential and private
  • faster resolution
  • preserves family relationships

When to seek independent legal advice

  • If any of the above fails, it may become necessary to seek independent legal advice
  • Consider whether the assets of the estate are worth the cost of engaging law professionals, as this may lead to costly litigation
  • If you wish to reach a fair resolution and to protect your financial interests, it would be wise to hire a lawyer

Estate disputes are challenging, both emotionally and legally. Knowing the common reasons behind disputes, understanding the process, and recognising when to seek legal advice are essential steps to protecting your interests. When faced with an estate dispute, seek legal advice promptly to ensure the best possible outcome for yourself and for all parties involved.

The information provided in this article is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional legal advice. We do not endorse or make any representations about the completeness, accuracy, or reliability of any information provided. Any reliance on the information in this article is done at your own risk. The authors and publishers of this article are not responsible for any errors or omissions or for any actions taken based on the information provided. Legal issues are complex, and readers should consult with a qualified lawyer to obtain advice tailored to their individual circumstances.

This disclaimer is subject to change without notice, and it is the responsibility of the reader to review and understand the terms and conditions set forth herein.

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