Inheritance disputes inspired by beloved belongings

Published 23 May 2014

Often, when people consider the idea of contesting a will, the focus is on receiving a larger portion of the financial value of the deceased’s estate.

However, in some cases the specific belongings of a family member are considered much more important due to emotional attachment and sentimental value. When a prized possession is bequeathed to a sibling or friend, this can lead to the decision to file an inheritance dispute.

In a simple will, most of the deceased’s belongings are considered part of the larger estate. This means that if the will specifies that family members are to receive a percentage of the estate, most possessions and property will be sold to make the separation of finances easier.

Specific gifts can be bequeathed to individuals, however, to ensure the sentimental attachment is remembered and honoured. Items such as books, jewellery and artwork are typically treated in this manner, as well as photo albums, family recipes and more emotional gifts.

When deciding which items to leave to which family member, it is important to remember that both the financial and sentimental value may influence your beneficiaries to make inheritance disputes.

If a family member believes that their gift does not adequately meet the deceased’s obligation to care for them financially, they may appeal to the Supreme Court to split the estate more fairly. This could result in the specific bequeathments being sold in order to pay for financial settlements.

It is therefore crucial to ensure, when estate planning, that your will clearly states the specific possessions you wish to be bequeathed. Furthermore, it is recommended that you include an explanation as to why you chose to make those particular gifts, to avoid confusion regarding the items’ value.

Other methods to avoid your estate being sold and split unsentimentally include naming an executor to distribute your belongings, giving the gifts to your family before your death and allowing your beneficiaries to choose their own inheritance.

These measures could still lead to inheritance disputes, particularly if some of your belongings are worth substantially more than others. While it is difficult to predict what will happen to your estate after your death, ensuring your will is accurately worded and overseen by a qualified and registered solicitor can go a long way.

If someone in your family has recently passed and you believe your inheritance is unfair, you can speak with an inheritance lawyer about your eligibility and right to contest the will.

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