Published 23 Oct 2018
Writing a Will is the best method of establishing how an estate should be handled when someone passes away.
A professionally drafted document should cover key elements of the estate planning process. Unfortunately, not every Will provides a clear and accurate description of how an individual's assets should be distributed.
In many cases, an error or poorly worded sentence won't have a significant impact on the estate's administration. However, we have seen will disputes arise over the ambiguity of even a single word. Here are the steps you should take if a loved one's Will is confusing:
1. Discuss your concerns with the executor
A debatable clause in a Will could put an inheritance in jeopardy, so discuss the situation with the estate's executor to see how the issue can be resolved. Arriving at a consensus over the intention of the Will is likely to save time, stress and legal fees at a time when you are already grieving.
2. Contact a contesting Wills lawyer
If you're not able to come to a satisfactory arrangement with the executor, contact an experienced Will disputes lawyer to explore available options. Getting in touch with a lawyer is also advisable for executors who are struggling to decipher a puzzling Will. The earlier in the process you can obtain expert legal advice, the better.
3. Enter mediation
You may need to consider mediation in situations where the ambiguity of the Will is creating conflict. Mediation allows the relevant parties to discuss the key issues of the dispute in an impartial setting overseen by an objective intermediary. Agreeing a settlement at this stage ensures a mutually satisfactory conclusion for the parties involved, which saves costs and may help keep family relationships civil.
4. Consider court proceedings
Unfortunately, some Will disputes can't be resolved through a settlement or mediation. The next step is usually a court hearing, where a judge makes a ruling on the most likely interpretation of the Will using statutory powers provided under the Succession Act 2006. This approach is more time-consuming and expensive, but it may be the only option when parties can't agree.
How do I get started?
An ambiguous Will could lead to legal disputes, particularly if large inheritances are involved. Ensuring you have the best representation in these circumstances is essential.
Gerard Malouf & Partners Will Dispute Lawyers has a sophisticated understanding of Wills and estates matters, as well as a no-win, no-fee service that means you pay no upfront costs when pursuing a case.