Do I need to go to court when contesting a will?

Published 02 Jun 2015

Author: David Cossalter

Many people decide to contest a will because they feel they have not been adequately provided for by their loved one. This can be a fairly simply process, but in some instances, it will be necessary for you to attend court.

Bear in mind that only certain parties are able to contest a will. The spouse, children, parents and de facto partner of the deceased are all entitled to make a claim, although in some situations, this list can be extended to include other financial dependents.

Once you've made sure that you have the legal right to contest a will, it's then a good idea to speak to a lawyer who specialises in this area. They will be able to advise you on the next steps for pursuing your claim.

Settling outside of court

In relatively straightforward cases, it is possible to settle the will dispute without having to go to court. Pre-negotiations can be held between the affected parties and an agreement reached that satisfies everybody's needs.

Courts often want to see evidence that efforts have been made to settle the inheritance dispute before it reaches that stage. Although this is effective in some situations, there are cases where it simply isn't possible to come to an amicable conclusion.

Attending a court hearing

It will ultimately be the court's decision to determine whether the provisions outlined in the disputed will are to be overturned. Failing to settle out of court effectively means that you hand over power to the presiding judge at the time of the hearing.

You will be given the opportunity to put forward your reasons for contesting the will, as well as why you do not feel it had provided adequately for your needs. Any other interested parties will likewise be given the chance to state their views.

Further court appearances

Even in the event that the judge does rule in your favour, it's important to remember that there is still the potential for the verdict to be overturned. An appeal could be lodged by any other party, meaning you'll likely find yourself in court again.

Your lawyer should make you aware of any of the potential difficulties that might arise as a result of your claim. Although some people are successful in contesting wills, there are inevitably others where the verdict does not go in their favour.

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