A court case is a normal occurrence in Australia. While many lawyers offer and encourage out of court settlements, sometimes there is no option but to go ahead with a legal battle. However, only about 2% of family law cases actually go to a trial and most issues are settled outside of the court.
A will can often be a bone of contention between family members, especially if one or more family members do not agree with what’s in the will.
Estate Disputes Can Be Complicated
It’s safe to say that most estate disputes that go to the court involve large properties. Such cases are typically very complex and can also run for a long period of time, which may also cost a lot to the estate and beneficiaries.
Most lawyers offer a no win no fee contract to clients, but still, a legal battle can turn out to be very costly. Let’s have a look at three common estate disputes and their outcomes:
Estate Disputes When the Will is Not Formally Drawn
The validity of a will that has been prepared by a skilled and experienced law firm is hardly challenged in the court. However, one or more beneficiaries may still bring a claim if they feel they have been mistreated, i.e: did not get the right share in the estate. In some cases, other parties may also have a right to file a dispute.
However, informal wills, also known as homemade wills, and DIY wills, are often challenged on the basis of validity. Since such wills are typically prepared without the help of a legal firm, they are usually ambiguous. Plus, there also arises the question of the will being true, honest, and valid.
There’s also a risk of forgery, duress or the person being under the influence if there is no proof or witnesses.
The more ambiguous, error-riddled or suspicious a will is, the higher the chances of one or more beneficiaries challenging it. This is why it is important that wills are formally drafted, in the presence of a legal firm.
Informal wills are usually proven invalid wholly or in part. You need a good attorney to prove the validity or invalidity of an informal will. Find more information on how to contest an informal will in this useful blog.
Estate Disputes When The Executors are Slow and Delaying Probate
Probate is the legal process where a will is deemed valid in the court and is hence accepted as a true testament of the deceased. In cases where a will is missing, the case is settled under the laws of intestacy.
It’s the duty of executors to obtain a grant of Probate, which allows them to officially administer the estate and divide the estate assets. However, they can often be very slow with the process, especially because the law does not provide a legal time frame for the purpose.
Most executioners follow “the executor’s year” concept that suggests to applying for Probate within a year. If an executioner takes longer than this, then the beneficiaries have the option to turn to the Supreme Court to force the executioner to perform his or her duties within a specified timeframe.
Estate Disputes When The Beneficiaries Are Not on the Same Page
A large number of conflicts arise due to one or more beneficiaries not being on the same page regarding the will. Most estates in Australia comprise of a family home, freehold property, personal effects, and other such investments.
In most case, it’s the family home that becomes a bone of contention, especially when some beneficiaries wish to hold the property, usually due to emotional attachment, and others wish to sell it in order to raise some cash.
Mostly, one or more beneficiaries may have the option to buy the property from the estate within a specified time period. Even if such a clause is not highlighted in the will, one or more beneficiaries may buy the property after hiring a valuer to evaluate the property and creating a deed.
If you are involved in an Estate Dispute or need to contest a will, there are a number of law firms in Victoria that can help you handle an estate disputes. Legal staff are skilled and can help you ensure that get your rightful share in the property.