Published 16 Mar 2016
Many people imagine that contesting a will means they'll have to attend court and convince a judge of the validity of their case. However, most inheritance disputes are resolved before they ever reach a courtroom.
Agreeing a settlement is one way of bringing a will challenge to an early conclusion, provided all parties agree that the terms are fair. But what are the benefits of settling? Here are some of the key reasons why you may choose to avoid a court decision.
1. Settlements are quicker
Going through the courts can be a laborious process, which is often particularly gruelling when you are grieving for a loved one. You may feel contesting a will is necessary in some circumstances, so agreeing a settlement can expedite proceedings while still pursuing a legitimate claim.
2. Settlements are more cost-effective
The advantage of speeding up inheritance disputes is that you'll also enjoy lower legal fees. The longer a case continues, the more costs you'll run up before a final decision is made. This is an important consideration for will challenges, as the executor's costs are often removed from the estate.
3. Settlements can reduce family tensions
Inheritance disputes can create problems between family members, particularly if the deceased chose relatives as executors. Settlements may help to ease these tensions by preventing drawn-out proceedings and ensuring a more agreeable outcome for everyone involved.
4. Settlements are less risky
You can never predict what ruling a judge will provide when pursuing your claim through the court. Ultimately, you may come away with nothing at all. Settlements are typically considered safer options, although selecting a no-win, no-fee lawyer will also protect you from unexpected economic losses.
5. Settlements are often final
Even when judges rule in your favour, your case may still be appealed if the defendants disagree with the decision. This will not only extend the length of proceedings further but also potentially reduce the size of the estate, meaning the eventual beneficiaries will receive less overall.
Are there disadvantages to settling?
Despite the benefits outlined above, there are a few disadvantages to settlements. For example, the defendant may provide an inaccurate representation of the size of the estate if they are not required to disclose the full information through a court order.
This can have a significant impact on your negotiations, as you won't have access to all the information you need to make an informed decision on whether a settlement is fair.