Which family members take priority during an inheritance dispute?

Published 10 Apr 2015

Author: David Cossalter

An inheritance dispute may involve a number of different claimants, especially if the deceased made some unexpected decisions regarding the distribution of their assets.

For example, if they left all their money to charity, it is quite likely various family members are going to challenge the will to ensure they are adequately provided for out of the estate.

The situation can become even more complex and confusing when the deceased has a large extended family or was married on multiple occasions. In these circumstances, it can be very difficult to ascertain who should receive priority status when redistributing assets to eligible claimants.

Nevertheless, the family members normally considered first in line are the deceased's spouse and children. This includes de-facto and same-sex partners, as well as adopted kids.

When the person who has died doesn't have children or a current partner, a former wife or husband is likely to have the strongest claim. However, a grandchild or anyone who was wholly dependant on the deceased could also challenge the will.

Who is likely to take priority between a spouse and a child?

The partner and children of the deceased often have very strong cases if they haven't been included in a will or have otherwise not been adequately provided for.

If both are challenging the will, the courts have to decide who should be given the largest share of the estate. This depends on a number of issues, such as how close the deceased was to each claimant, the plaintiffs' financial stability and immediate needs, and what contributions they made to the deceased's life.

Typically, a spouse can expect to receive a bigger proportion of the assets, particularly when age, disabilities and ability to work are central factors. However, that doesn't mean the needs of the children will be ignored.

What should I do next?

Every case is unique, making it difficult to predict how the courts will decide on a family provision claim. This is why it's very important to seek the services of a contesting wills lawyer with whom you can discuss your options.

Hiring high-quality legal representation will ensure you have the best chance of receiving a positive outcome from your inheritance dispute, whether you choose a settlement, go through mediation or end up in court.

Choose a no-win, no-fee firm for even greater peace of mind, as you will only have to pay legal costs when a ruling goes in your favour.

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