How to Keep Your Head When You're Involved in an Inheritance Dispute

Published 21 Jun 2016

Bereavements are uniquely challenging life events and their emotional impact is unfortunately often significantly increased when there is a dispute over inheritance or the will is contested.

At Gerard Malouf and Partners, we’ve represented clients across a wide variety of family provision claims over the years. During that time we’ve consistently seen the importance of all sides maintaining a cool head in what can prove to be intense proceedings where emotions run understandably deep.

In this piece, we’ll step through four suggestions for managing your emotions if you find yourself involved in an inheritance dispute. Taken together, they can help you make an inherently stressful time substantially more manageable.

1. Acknowledge Your Grieving

Grieving is a multi-stage process and one that will challenge your ability to think clearly and rationally about options that are in front of you. Add in money, family and often woefully underprepared wills and you have a situation where it can be incredibly difficult to manage your emotions effectively.

Start by acknowledging the fact that you actually are grieving – get familiar with the classic stages of grief you can expect to go through, and don’t be afraid to reach out for professional assistance if the burden is too great. This step alone will significantly help in processing your own emotions and understanding the behaviour of others.

2. Distinguish Between Money and Emotions

Financial matters are obviously at the core of most inheritance disputes, but they’re far from the only factor at play. Particularly in the early stages of a dispute, the real issues are often underlying emotional ones which may well have been simmering for quite some time.

When considering individual elements under dispute, ask yourself is this really about the money?

This is a question you should consider in terms of both your own point of view and that of others. It can be an uncomfortable distinction to explore, but an honest assessment goes a long way towards keeping you in control of your own emotions and able to make sensible decisions.

3. Don’t Rule out Mediation

As your expert legal advisors, our job is to secure the best possible outcome for you at every stage of a dispute, up to and including possible court proceedings. In an ideal scenario, however, the matter would be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties well before that point.

Professional mediators can provide considerable value and often help avoid entirely unnecessary expense and emotional upset. Assuming you engage fully with the process, they also give you the comfort of knowing you’ve explored every reasonable option in attempting to resolve your dispute.

4. Recognise That It’s an Iterative Process

Any form of legal contest is an iterative process and that’s particularly the case with inheritance disputes. Given their inherently emotional nature, most people naturally want to get them resolved as quickly as possible, but the reality is that there’s likely to be considerable back-and-forth in many cases. Recognising this from the outset helps you keep on an even emotional keel throughout.

The ongoing aftermath of a bereavement is one of the most emotionally complex journeys you’ll have to navigate in your life and the road ahead is not always clear at many stages of it. Having to simultaneously deal with an inheritance dispute is a significant added stress factor and one you should seek professional assistance in dealing with.

At Gerard Malouf and Partners, we’re fully aware that worries over potential costs often deter people from seeking professional advice at what is a very difficult time in their lives. That’s why our No Win No Fee policy also applies in the case of inheritance disputes, whether you’re challenging a will or making a claim. Contact our expert team of advisors for free today to discuss your case in detail and find out more.

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