If a family is already on rocky terms, a dispute over a will can shatter ties. When someone is left out of a will and has a sense of entitlement, it can cause not only family dramas but legal ones.
There have been reports that people contesting will have been on the rise in Australia for some time. The sad part is that they have a better chance of success than you do of fighting it. A study conducted by The University of Queensland showed that 74-percent of wills challenged resulted in a win for those who challenged it. It revealed that 87-percent of the wills challenged at least went to a mediator.
Some law firms even specialise in these types of cases with advertising that says “Have you been left out of a will?” The study found that over 18-percent of the cases already had poor relations between the family members and that grew to 26-percent after the arguments for resolved.
One case a woman cut her stepdaughter out of her will saying; “I make no provision in my will for [DM] who claims to be a daughter of my late husband as she has ill-treated both myself and my late husband for many years and has made no attempt to contact or have anything to do with me.” The stepdaughter argued that it was the stepmother that pushed her away, and the judge awarded her $130,000.
In another case, a father cut two of his daughters out of the will. He stated to the court that reason for it was that “they make no attempt to contact me either by telephone or in person. No cards are sent to me either at Christmas or my birthday…I do not feel obliged in any way to make any provision out of my estate for their benefit.” The court ruled that the father’s statement wasn’t vailed and awarded the girl almost $10,000 a piece.
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What’s the solution? While many experts say that there is no way to make a will contest proof. It is important to leave a will as detailed as possible. It will also help to send official letters to the immediate family that are either getting something or not in your will and letting them know of your wishes way before death. Ask them to write you back to say that they understand your choices.
Alternatively, as one expert said, you could leave the entire estate to a charity.
Have you had experience with a contested will? What have you laid out in your will that you think might upset someone in your family?