The death of a close loved one can be a challenging ordeal to go through. On top of that, if an estate dispute or disagreement arises between the beneficiaries, it can cause a lot of resentment among the family members. Contesting a will is a very complex process, and in addition to the requirement of a professional’s assistance, you also need to tread carefully.
Whether you’re the will contestant or one of the beneficiaries, careful maneuvering is required to ensure there’s no unfair division of the estate. Although the death of a loved one is a tough time, the predicament of an estate dispute should be handled carefully to avoid any mishaps. To help make the process easier for you, here are six tips that can help you go through a will dispute with ease:
1. Liquidate assets.
The best way to divide the assets of a will fairly is to liquidate them rather than try to divide the property between the beneficiaries equally. It’s much easier to divide liquidated assets than real or personal property. For example, selling a house would be much better for equal distribution rather than giving each beneficiary one room. This arrangement doesn’t benefit any of the individuals and instead leaves them with an added responsibility. If all involved parties agree to this, then the distribution of the will or estate becomes infinitesimally easier.
2. Get an estate planning attorney.
Although it’s very much possible to get through a will dispute without the assistance of an attorney, it’s generally a good idea to get the counsel of a professional to ensure the proceedings go smoothly. In many instances, people tend to become greedy when a large inheritance is involved, and it can become pretty challenging to deal with them by yourself. People usually try to get the most out of an inheritance by coming up with loopholes, and scams to rob you of your rightful inheritance. In these cases, there are many highly specialised lawyers and estate planning attorneys that will ensure that you’re completely aware of your rights and help you through the process of a will dispute.
3. Use a mediator.
When the beneficiaries disagree about the will distribution, instead of fighting over it or coming to agreements on their own, it’s better to hire a mediator to help solve your disputes. A mediator will serve as a neutral voice in the argument, and the decision will be more easily taken. As compared to hiring a lawyer, a mediator will be a more affordable alternative. Although they may not be as skilled as a professional lawyer, a mediator provides an unbiased opinion, which can help resolve things and make a suitable decision regarding the will and inheritance.
4. Get an independent fiduciary.
The will’s executor or trustee is responsible for overseeing the correct distribution of the deceased’s assets and property. Oftentimes this executor is someone from the family, or one of the beneficiaries, which might create problems between the beneficiaries as the executor may be seen as biased. To solve this issue, you should hire an independent fiduciary from the beginning of the case. This will ensure that the whole process of will execution is done from a neutral perspective.
5. Divide household items in a fair way.
In many instances, families fight over things where the value is not so much financial, but sentimental. For example, a dining room table might hold importance for the beneficiaries or siblings because of the countless memories made around it, not because of its financial value. This is why the executor should find a way to divide the properties and assets in a way that doesn’t disregard the beneficiaries’ feelings and sentimental attachment to the things. Instead of fighting over things, beneficiaries should sit down and form a mutual agreement for a fair distribution.
6. Pursue court action.
Although court action should be a last resort, it’s an acceptable response to an unsolvable dispute that’s causing tension between the beneficiaries, especially if they’re related. A formal court claim should be submitted by the defending party to demand their rights. This claim can be of two types: a claim against the validity of the will, or a claim that the beneficiary deserves a better settlement than the one provided. Although a court claim may seem like the best way to solve a will dispute, it will cost you much more in the long run and isn’t worth spending so much time and money on. It is, therefore, preferable to solve disputed wills through lawyers or mediators.
The death of a loved one is already filled with sorrow and difficulties, and if a will dispute occurs, it makes matters much worse. Although it’s preferable to solve a will disagreement without any disputes, if matters are unsolvable over discussions, it’s better to involve professionals and take legal actions.