Disputes arising over a deceased person’s last will in testament are a fairly common occurrence. The possibility of contention increases with larger estates and a longer list of beneficiaries.
At times someone may contest a will just to be difficult, if they believe they’ve been treated unfairly regarding what’s been (or hasn’t been) left to them, but on other occasions there is solid grounds for contesting the contents or validity of a will.
Will disputes can make a painful situation even worse and add even more stress to those who are grieving the passing of a loved one. Before anyone throws the proverbial spanner into the works and makes the process more complicated, it’s important to understand the valid reasons why and when a will can be contested.
We’ll cover a few key reasons in this post.
It Was a DIY Will
The “off the shelf” DIY will is far more open to contention than a will that’s been professionally and meticulously prepared by a lawyer. One reason is that people don’t believe it’s a legally binding document and that the will is open for debate and negotiation.
DIY wills are legal, but there is the potential for more loopholes if the will was not properly prepared.
Even still, to contest the contents of a DIY will, you’ll have to go through a law firm to see where you stand, and to determine whether the will is solid and valid or not.
The Deceased Was Not of Sound Mind
This refers to the deceased not having been of sound mind when they prepared the will, changed the will or signed off on the will.
If the person was suffering from mental illness at the time of their death, but the will was prepared before the onset of mental illness, then there are no grounds to contest based on the person’s mental state.
On the other hand, if the deceased was suffering from dementia or some other neurological affliction and made alterations to the will (willingly or by being coerced), then this does leave the will open to dispute by eligible parties.
A Recent Spouse Or Partner On the Scene
Did the deceased recently get married or have a new partner in their life? Was the will changed in favour of this new partner? Were eligible family members left out of the will to accommodate the new spouse?
While a new spouse or partner may have a right to be included in the will, if other eligible parties feel the will has been altered unfairly in the new spouse’s favour, then this is a point definitely open for contention.
In fact, this is one of the more common reasons for a will being contested.
If the person was only in the deceased’s life for a short period of time, yet found the most favour in the will, it leads to the assumption that this new partner may have put pressure on the deceased to change their will, or subtly manipulated and coerced the deceased to make changes.
Being Unfairly Provided For
Maybe you were the deceased’s personal carer for their final years and were promised that you would be looked after in the will, but you discover you haven’t been.
In this case you may have grounds to contest the contents of the will, whether you were related to the deceased or not.
Likewise, close family members who feel they haven’t adequately been provided for in the will are also within their rights to lodge a protest and contest the will.
You Were Dependent On the Deceased for Financial Support
This could be a child, partner or other family member who was reliant on financial support from the deceased when they were alive, only to discover that the will doesn’t adequately provide for them after the person’s passing.
If you find yourself in this situation, then you have every right to put your hand up and bring attention to your situation.
These are just some of the reasons why a will might be contested. To truly know where you stand in the matter, it’s best to consult with a law firm that specialises in this area.