After you’re gone – estate claims

Are you worried that someone, possibly a family member, might feel ‘left out’ of your will and make a claim on your estate after you die? Have you had a dispute with someone and decided to leave them nothing in your will? Is there someone who is or was a part of your life, for whom you have not provided anything in your will?

All of these situations (and others) can and do happen, making the lives of executors and beneficiaries very difficult and stressful. Claims under the Succession Act 2006 or so-called ‘family provision’ claims can absolutely devastate the deceased estates, particularly those which are modest in value.

For that reason, it is vital that when making a will, you consider all the relevant circumstances and people in your life, to make sure you have done all you can to avoid such a claim being made after you are gone.

Although the law generally recognises a person’s right to make a will as they wish, this sometimes gives rise to unfair scenarios in which certain family members receive little or no benefit.

A will can be contested, or a family provision claim can be made if there are good reasons, including:

  • Whether or not the situation is grossly unfair;
  • Whether there are financial needs of ‘family members’;
  • Whether there are dependents who were partially or fully financially dependent upon the deceased;
  • Whether the maker of the will had the mental capacity to understand what he/she was doing;
  • Whether the maker of the will was unduly influenced by another person prior to the signing of the document such that it does not reflect the will maker’s true wishes;

Although there are no foolproof ways to ensure that your estate will not face a claim, there are things that you can do, including:

  • Obtaining a doctor’s certificate as to your mental competence before signing a will;
  • Using a solicitor to prepare the will and assess your competence to sign it;
  • Ensuring that you have considered all people who might feel ‘left out’ of a will;
  • Making adequate provision for your family members based on their respective needs.

If you would like to find out more about whether your existing will can be improved to better protect against family provision claims, please contact us.

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