WHAT SHOULD YOU DO WHEN THERE ARE WILL DISPUTES?
Unfortunately, when a family member passes away, it brings out the good as well as the not-so-good in family dynamics. There may be times when a family member thinks they are entitled to something that the won’t specify or disagrees with how the estate is being settled.
In some instances, family members have very valid concerns about a will’s legal validity or have suspicions of undue influence on their loved one. When these matters arise, it is important to get skilled legal counsel to help navigate concerns or disputes in the most peaceful and fair way possible and to ensure that the will was created and executed lawfully.
Preemptive Estate Planning
Resolving disputes before they happen is one of the primary reasons for preemptive estate planning. Proper estate planning helps reduce family disputes before they happen and can open communication with family members to avoid disagreement. Any perceived inequities can be addressed while the testator is still alive. A letter of instruction can also be added to the will to further explain why assets are divided the way they are.
The Monetary Value of the Property
Sometimes family disputes are caused by the monetary value of the property in an estate. Even if the deceased loved one tried to divide property fairly, a serious dispute can result if one family member gets the family home while the others get property or belongings of lesser value. In matters like this, the family can agree to liquidate the properties and split the proceeds more evenly.
The Sentimental Value of the Property
Sometimes, a will dispute has less to do with the monetary value of property in the estate than the sentimental value. Different property in an estate may have different sentimental value for family members.
One way to resolve this is by having the heirs take turns to choose the items that have the most meaning for them. If there is any disagreement about a division of assets, it can be a simple matter of a lottery drawing in the family with each heir drawing a slip of paper with items on them until they are gone. Anything left can be sold and the proceeds split evenly.
Disputes Over the Appointment of Executor
Sometimes a dispute can arise over the appointment of one family member as executor of the estate. To keep the peace and keep property division neutral, this family member may choose to decline the appointment as executor and the family instead select an independent fiduciary to serve in this role.
Disputes and disagreements regarding a will may benefit from a third-party mediator. Mediation services can be an excellent way to work out differences between family members and will be far less costly than any legal options.
Legally Contesting a Will
Unfortunately, there may be times when litigation and a court decision is the only way to resolve a will dispute. Contesting a will can be a long and expensive process and requires a legal basis to do so, but in serious disputes, it’s critical to get legal guidance.
Only certain parties may challenge a will, including beneficiaries and heirs named in the will, any other legal heirs of the testator, or any creditors that the testator may have owed money. Furthermore, there must be legal grounds to challenge a will. These include
- Lack of testamentary capacity
- Undue influence
- Improper execution
- Fraud used to induce the testator’s signature
While family disputes over a will can be pretty common, legally challenging a will is rare. Most wills that go through probate today are without incident. But if there are serious suspicions or concerns, the family should get the assistance of an Orange County estate planning attorney as soon as possible.
Getting the Legal Assistance of an Orange County Estate Planning Lawyer
If you are concerned about the legal validity of the will of a loved one, getting the legal assistance of an Orange County estate planning attorney is critical. At the Law Offices of Roshni T. Desai, we can help you navigate thorny family issues, legally contest your loved one’s will, or simply provide peace of mind. Call us at 714.694.1200 or schedule a consultation through our website contact form.