How can I avoid a family rift during an inheritance dispute?

Published 15 Jun 2017

Inheritance disputes arise for many reasons, but a common complaint is that people don't feel a loved one who has passed away left adequate provisions for them in the will.

Pursuing a family provision claim or contesting a will is a difficult decision, however, as it potentially brings the plaintiff into conflict with family and friends at an already emotionally sensitive time. This is particularly true when a claim could dramatically reduce the share that existing beneficiaries of the will are set to receive.

Many of our clients are often worried that an inheritance dispute could cause lasting damage to their relationships with surviving loved ones. However, contesting a will does not have to be an acrimonious process, and it's possible to find a solution with which all parties are happy.

Reaching a settlement

Some people assume that most will disputes end up in court, but this couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, many contestations are settled well before they go before a judge.

Settlements have a number of benefits compared with court cases. First, they are more cost-effective, which maximises the available assets to be divided among beneficiaries, as some judges may rule that the defendant and plaintiff's costs should be subtracted from the estate.

Second, settlements offer a relatively quick resolution, thus reducing the stress and hopefully preventing the bitterness that can develop between parties over a protracted courtroom battle.

Last, a settlement guarantees you walk away with an agreed amount, whereas a judge's ruling could leave you with nothing.

Waiting for mediation

There are disadvantages to settlements, however, and you may be unable to come to a mutually beneficial agreement regarding your loved one's estate.

Mediation is the next step in the process and it gives you much greater access to information regarding the deceased's assets. If you are concerned about a family rift, mediation is also a good opportunity to put forward your case and explain why you are contesting the will.

With the right approach and professional legal support, mediation can help you receive what you consider to be a fair share of the estate without jeopardising your personal relationships.

Taking the next steps

Navigating an inheritance dispute is often tricky, so it's crucial that you contact an experienced will disputes lawyer to help you.

If avoiding a family rift is a key priority, tell your lawyer your goals and they can develop the ideal approach for your specific circumstances. For more information, please contact Gerard Malouf & Partners Will Dispute Lawyers today.

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