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What to Do to Avoid Inheritance Disputes & How to Handle Them If They Occur

by WardBlawg on February 3, 2018

Contribution regarding avoiding inheritance / probate disputes and the importance of having a valid will.

When you are expecting an inheritance, it’s usually a positive thing that is the outcome of a successful life by a member of the family. They’ve made enough to not have spent it all and wanted to give it to their family after their passing. The idea is a noble one and popular with families who strongly believe in the idea of creating generational wealth, but it sometimes runs into difficulty when not handled the right way from the beginning.

What is a Legal Will?

Aren’t all wills legal by default? Actually, no. Wills can be invalid and not legal for a variety of reasons. It’s not uncommon for someone to make a will and have it in their home unsigned, planning to get to it someday and never doing so before their passing. Alternatively, some wills get signed but not in front of two witnesses. In some unusual circumstances, it’s discovered that one of the witnesses was not yet eighteen years’ old and not of legal age to sign a will. The fact that they’re older later won’t matter; it’s the age they were when they signed that is what’s important there.

Usually, it’s a good idea to pay to have the will kept in a fireproof safe at the solicitor’s office. There are instances where a self-made will or one prepared by a solicitor is kept at home and was subsequently lost in a fire that took the life of the testator, the person who’s will it was. Hopefully, the solicitor kept a copy, but if it was self-made, probably that was the only copy of it and the estate won’t go to whom they intended it to.

How to Get a Legal Will Produced

First and foremost, to hell with expense. Use a solicitor to prepare a will or encourage the family member who’s planning to have one drawn up do so. What should be avoided are the main issues that arise and invalidate a will. Using the correct legal language and having the proper information in the will is the first point here. When you’re doing it yourself, you’re firing blind on an important legal document that decides who gets what. That seems kind of reckless and should overcome any desire to be ultra-frugal to save a few pounds.

Using a Solicitor & Following Sensible Procedures

A solicitor will ensure that all the t’s are crossed, and the i’s are dotted. Relevant information like the address of someone being given part of the estate via the will, is present in the document. A will has to be witnessed by two people over the age of 18 who can sign freely and in full knowledge of what they are witnessing. It’s a good idea to validate both their ID, and their age if there’s any question of their being of legal age (people sometimes look older than their young years).

The will must be signed by the testator and the two witnesses in the same meeting; if it doesn’t happen then, it could be the cause for serious will disputes later and ultimately could have the entire will invalidated just because of that.

Avoid Late Changes to a Will

It doesn’t matter from a legal standpoint whether the testator dies at a young age or in their retirement years; when they alter their will not long before their death, it raises many questions.

With a younger person who perhaps was the sad victim of a drunk driver, there are likely to be fewer issues with their will even if they changed it soon before because the nature of their death was unpredictable. It’s less likely that they would have been influenced by another person to include them in their will at that young age or not be of a fit mind to understand their will, and the meaning of all of the causes contained therein. As such, an issue with their will is unlikely.

However, with an older person where there’s a substantial inheritance, this bares some additional degree of scrutiny by all parties concerned. However, regardless of the value of the estate, a question about their ability to understand the will that they’ve signed or where the document violently differs from a previous version sufficient to raise eyebrows, or just seems completely out of character, then that’s a major problem. Inheritance disputes arise when people who feel that they should have received at least some of, or what they believed was their rightful share, and failed so do so.

Discussion of Wills Creates Other Issues

When family members discuss their will, there is the potential for wires to get crossed. Some family members may believe different things depending on what was said. Vague comments like, “You’ll be well taken care of” lack sufficient clarity; the family member will believe they’ll be in the will but probably end up inventing a number of how much they think is coming their way which will never match the reality (sometimes positively, other times negatively).

In other cases, people can misremember things and later claim that they were promised things even when they were not written down or in the will. This is still sufficient to talk to some inheritance experts when the amounts are significant enough to be worth seriously pursuing. Memory is often the worst witness, and this creates dilemmas for people handling probate later. For this reason, it’s best to avoid any discussion of a will and who gets what to reduce the instance of these kinds of problems. When no one can ever remember a discussion about wills of any kind and there were no familial witnesses to a suggested discussion, it’s much more difficult to have a problem with the inheritance later.

Financial Support or Living on the Property

It’s little known that should the testator be providing some financial support to a person, even if they’re outside of the immediate family, then they may dispute the will because they were not included. The person can request part of the estate because the financial support has ended, which may seem outrageous to family members named in the will. Furthermore, anyone living in the property where the testator resided and benefitting from free accommodation also may have a claim because they no longer enjoy this benefit.

The connection between financial support and living arrangements is a little-known aspect of wills and inheritance matters. People like The Inheritance Experts that have dealt with many unusual probate cases and disputes of wills are useful in these circumstances to better understand all the implications and how best to proceed. Usually they work on behalf of the people who are making a claim on the inheritance.

When dealing with potential disputes over who gets the inheritance, some people choose to fight over it while others prefer to just walk away. A better approach is to ensure that the family provides for the wills that are needed and that they’re produced in a manner that ensures fewer problems when dealing with the will and processing the estate. Doing so is a form of preventative medicine that a grieving family will surely be glad of when the time comes. Money is certainly not something that families should have a falling out over.

WardBlawg

WardBlawg

Legal Blogger at WardBlawg
+Gavin Ward is the founder of WardBlawg, Director of YouBlawg Limited and Operations Director at Moore Legal Technology Limited, specialising in helping law firms, lawyers and businesses grow their businesses online and aiming to help get great legal content published and shared across the web. Gavin created this law blog or ‘blawg’ to aim to contribute useful updates, thoughts and advice to help law firms, businesses and the legal profession in the UK and across the world succeed both online and offline.
WardBlawg
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