A Challenging Time
Jennifer Renshaw, Head of Litigation at Derbyshire Legal Services Limited, looks at potential challenges to estates
When someone passes away emotions run high amongst those left behind for very many reasons. Not only is there the loss of a loved one to cope with, but there are practical decisions to be made about funerals, perhaps their house and belongings, and their affairs generally. Whilst involvement in these arrangements can be a helpful distraction at a very sad time for some, for others this can be an upsetting time especially where agreement over those decisions between those left behind is proving difficult.
And what happens when, after those difficult early days, a family member or friend is surprised to find that what they thought their loved one had intended them to have after their death is not the reality? If your loved one made promises to you whilst they were alive about what you would be left following their death (for example money, property or maybe jewellery) what happens if these promises aren’t reflected in their Will? Perhaps they died without a Will and those dealing with your loved one’s Estate don’t wish to honour those promises? Or what if you’ve been missed out of a Will altogether or left much less than you expected? And what about an estranged family member appearing claiming that they should have been included in a Will?
These situations are not as rare as you might think, and they are on the rise. Our elderly generation has, in many cases, benefited from the increase in house prices during the decades of growth and so current Estates often have a higher value than those of previous generations which makes a challenge to a Will worth more than fleeting consideration. Added to this, family units are becoming more complex as the traditional family unit declines and there are increases in divorces, re-marriages and step-families. Due in part to geographical diversity this may result in less communication between parents, children and siblings. Combined with a number of high profile court cases, these factors all align to create an environment where challenges to an Estate are much more likely and it is perhaps unsurprising that there has been a marked increase in claims against deceased Estates as those who feel “hard-done-by” bring challenges.
So what can be done? Great care must be taken to try, wherever possible, to preserve the relationships between those left behind. Emotions are often raw and seemingly benign requests can be met with unanticipated responses and all parties should be encouraged to communicate as a first step. Legal action should certainly not be a consideration until such communication has been explored. At Derbyshire Legal Services we can help to open lines of communication between the parties, bringing everyone together if appropriate and supporting you in an understanding environment in reaching resolution. We can also offer legal services to contest a Will or to defend a challenge to a Will or disputes in relation to an Estate.
For more information, please contact
Jennifer Renshaw, Head of Litigation,
by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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