Will disputes are often messy, complicated and emotional processes that impact upon the wellbeing of individuals.
However, given the stakes involved with financial assets and items of sentimental value, this is a matter that speaks to the livelihood of family members.
Rather than being consumed by animosity or being anxious about making a claim, it is worthwhile understanding the important factors that are involved in such cases.
We will take a closer look at what is involved with Will disputes and how the people involved can make progress.
Not Everyone is Entitled to Dispute
Before the subject of Will disputes is breached, it is worthwhile to take stock of the parameters that are involved for those parties interested in the exercise. Unless the individual is of age (18 years or older) and is either a spouse or a direct family member, then there are major restrictions and limitations at play. Beneficiaries who are explicitly listed on the document will be eligible to apply for certain provisions if they so wish, but depending on the laws of the state then there can be some avenues that cannot be explored for certain constituents.
Contesting & Challenging Are Two Distinct Actions
It is an easy piece of oversight to make, but Will disputes can be contested or challenged depending on the context of the situation. On one hand with a contest, a participant is of the belief that they have been poorly treated by the deceased or the executor or they have been left off the document entirely. This is where they can lodge a claim and seek representation to ensure that their entitlements are upheld. There will be other constituents though who make another type of claim, believing that the actual formation and signing of the Will was an illegitimate process – forcing a challenge to take place. It might appear like an exercise in semantics, but they are two very distinct exercises.
There Are Different Settings Where Disputes Can Occur
There are two key domains where Will disputes officially take place. While talks can often take place in private homes or public spaces, they will regularly occur in either mediation centres or in courtrooms. The former is an environment where beneficiaries and executors alike can come together in a room and hold private talks that remain confidential. An independent arbiter will facilitate the discussions and formalise proceedings, but it can be held in more of an informal regard that is purely voluntary. The alternative measure is to head straight for a hearing in a courtroom, seeing an applicant file for a claim and make their case before a judge.
Probate Status is Key
Will disputes cannot occur before probate status is granted. This is where the document is officially filed through the court system to ensure that all terms and conditions are considered authenticated and the funds and assets for the beneficiaries can be released. This is a process that commonly takes anywhere between 8-12 weeks depending on the logistics involved. It is only when this status has been granted that applicants can file for a contest or a challenge.
Myriad of Determining Factors
There are simply no guarantees at play when the topic of Will disputes emerges. This is in large part because no two people who file for such claims come from the same set of circumstances. From the age of the applicant to their relationship to the deceased, the financial needs of the applicant, any disability they may have, the debt and liabilities that are placed on the estate, when the document was signed, in what conditions and beyond – they will all factor into the decision-making process.