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WILL & ESTATE DISPUTES
“Disputes about estates and wills can be messy and stressful, especially since they’re often between loved ones. It’s our job to resolve the matter as quickly and amicably as possible so that your relationships and your entitlements are protected in equal measure.”
– Alistair Stewart, Lawyer
At Schofield King, our will and probate lawyers have the required experience and knowledge to assist you with any and all matters relating to wills, disputes, contested wills and the validity of such documents. Sometimes a person who was not included in the original will feels that they are owed a claim to some of the assets or property involved in the will. In these cases, and cases of a similar nature, the law is very complicated. It may be the case that there is some defect in the will, or a will has not been prepared, or there is a question of whether the will-maker had his or her full mental capacity at the time the will was created. In this area of law, some relevant questions are:
- 1. Did the deceased understand what they were doing when they created the will?
- 2. Did he/she understand what their assets were?
- 3. Did he/she understand who they should be considering when making that will?
Often medical concerns or issues will create uncertainty about the validity of a will, and that will can be contested.
If you need legal advice from the expert will lawyers and probate lawyers in Sydney and surrounding areas, then do not hesitate to use our free helpline or fill in the contact form on this webpage for one of our friendly professionals to call you back for a free chat about your matter.
For a will to be legally valid it must always have been created under certain regulations. For instance, the person making the will needs to be over the age of eighteen and of sound mind at the time the will is made, and two additional witnesses to the will must have signed the document and they cannot be included in the document itself as beneficiaries. If a witness is a beneficiary they will lose their inheritance! The will must also be free from undue influence. If a person has influenced the will-maker then the validity of the will may be called into doubt.
If there is no valid will to be relied on then the deceased is described as “intestate”. In these circumstances the distribution of the estate can be hotly contested by a number of interested parties, and can be a legal minefield for the people who may have a rightful claim to that estate.
If you think that you might be one of those people, please do not hesitate to call us for a free preliminary chat.
Sometimes it really does happen that an original will is lost somewhere and the appointed executors can attempt to prove a copy of the will and thereby obtain a grant of probate. Understandably, if these copies do not include beneficiaries who say they were included in the original there is often a dispute requiring an experienced will lawyer or probate lawyer.
Subsequently such parties will attempt to prove in court that the will was not lost but rather destroyed by the testator, which would have the effect of invalidating the copy and mean an earlier version is the valid will. As you can see, contesting the content of a will is never a simple task!
Legal documentation and evidence is required if you want to improve your chances of a successful claim of this type. Only the best legal advice from highly experienced probate and will lawyers such as the ones we have at SK Legal here in Sydney will help.
If the will-maker has not made provided sufficiently for certain people, those people may be able to bring a claim under the Succession Act 2006. Those persons are defined as “eligible persons”, and include the spouse of the deceased (whether by marriage or de facto), the children of the deceased (whether natural or otherwise), and in certain cases other persons who were dependent on the deceased such as grandchildren, persons with close relationships to the deceased, or people living with the deceased.
A claim of this nature, sometimes called a “Family Provisions” claim, can allow the Court to make some provision for the eligible person to receive a benefit from the estate of the deceased.
Schofield King acted for a client in a sensitive matter concerning her mother’s estate. Our client had cared for her mother thoroughly for a long period of time but in the final years (as is often the case) a number of other people began to come out of the woodwork. Through a few strategic conversations between the new people and our client’s mother, the relationship between our client and her mother deteriorated. When our client’s mother sadly passed away, our client found out that she had been completely ignored in the will.
We stepped in, and commenced a claim on behalf of our client seeking a share of the estate on the basis of our client’s relationship with her mother as well as the years that she thoughtfully and lovingly cared for her mother.
The matter resolved at mediation, without the need to proceed to a full hearing. Our client was extremely content with the settlement that she received, and (perhaps more importantly) was glad to be able to put the dispute behind her and begin to mend fences with her family.
While it may not always be the case that parties in estate disputes want to be on good terms when the dispute is over, we treat each case with the personal relationships in mind as well as the ultimate outcome — to make sure that you’re all set on both fronts when all’s said and done.
What can you expect from Schofield King Lawyers?
We’ll have an initial, obligation-free chat with you about your relationship with the person who has recently passed. We’ll go through the legal checklist in terms of what you need to bring a claim, and will tell you from the get-go whether we think you have a case.
If you do, we’ll get all the details of your story and put together an application to the Court. Once that is on foot, our job will be to get you what you’re entitled to as quickly as possible, and without causing irreparable harm to your family relationships.
We’re always bound by your instructions — that means that we will recommend settlement options if we consider them to be appropriate, but the ultimate decision will be yours. Not to fear though, we’ll be there to keep you as informed as possible at all times.
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