Common reasons for Will disputes (and how a lawyer can help)

  • 14 February 2023

A will outlines how you want your assets and belongings distributed when you pass away. Unfortunately, will disputes can still arise which may mean your wishes are not followed. There are a few common reasons why will disputes happen and understanding these is the first step towards making sure they do not happen to you.   

Your will is not valid

There are specific rules that need to be followed to make sure a will is valid. If you have a lawyer involved when creating your will, they will make sure that you meet all the requirements for a valid will. 

There are also some specific circumstances where a court may declare your will to be invalid. This can happen if you were unduly influenced by someone when making your will or you did not have the legal capacity to make your will. Undue influence is when someone may have put you under duress or forced you to put something in your will. Legal capacity refers to whether you were of sound mind at the time you wrote your will. If a court finds there has been undue influence or incapacity, your will will be invalid.  

Our lawyers can help you make sure there is no undue influence when writing your will and give you advice if there is potential for you to be considered to be not of sound mind.   

The executor delays distributing the assets

The executor of your will must carry out your wishes and manage your assets until they have been distributed. Legally, there is no specific time in which an executor must finish their job but generally your executor should start the process within a year of your passing. If an executor takes too long, the beneficiaries can ask the court to set a timeline for the executor to obtain a grant of probate. Our lawyers can also help your executor apply for a grant of probate quickly and efficiently.  

If it continues to take too long to finalise your estate, the beneficiaries may be able to ask the court to remove your executor altogether and appoint another one. 

Your beneficiaries disagree with how to deal with their share

One of the most common will disputes is about how to deal with the family home. If there are several  beneficiaries, like your children, some may not want to sell the home while others may want to. You can outline in your will how to deal with this situation, like saying who has an option to purchase the property outright. If your will does not specify anything, the beneficiaries can still agree for one person to buy others out of their share. Our lawyers can help you draft your will to make it clearer what your wishes are and potentially avoid a will dispute. 

There may also be disagreements over what is a fair value for the property, which is where an independent valuer or our lawyers can help. 

The executor doesn’t follow the will 

Your executor is required to follow your wishes as set out in your will. If they are also a beneficiary, another beneficiary may believe the executor has not followed the will or has even made some suspicious transactions. For example, they may have moved money out of a bank account or taken ownership over some of your belongings. If this has actually happened, a beneficiary can dispute the will and ask for the assets to be returned or for an adjustment to be made in how the assets in the will are distributed.  

The process of contesting or adjusting a will can be complicated. Our lawyers can give you advice on what you can do and help you understand your options. 

Your beneficiaries do not agree with your wishes

Generally, your beneficiaries have to accept what your wishes are in your will. But there are some circumstances where a beneficiary can dispute a will because it has not taken into account their needs. This often relates to children, your partner or someone else who is dependent on you and may have an expectation that you will look after them in your will. In this situation, they may be able to challenge the will and ask the court to make changes to it. 

You can potentially avoid this happening when creating your will. Our lawyer will ask you questions about your family situation to make sure anyone who is legally required to be provided for in your will is.   

Many will disputes can often be avoided when you draft your will. Our experienced will and estate lawyers can help guide you through the process and explain your options in plain English. We can also take care of the paperwork and make sure your wishes are followed through when you pass away. 

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