4 questions to ask before beginning an estate dispute

Date: Jul 08, 2015

Choosing to dispute a will is a big decision for individuals to make, with no guaranteed outcome. That said, it is also a useful course of action to take if you feel you have been unfairly left out of a person's will.

The first step in contesting a will is going to be getting in contact with a wills and estates lawyer to begin the process. Before then though, there are a few key questions you should ask yourself that will help to determine how strong your case is. Here are four questions to start:

1) Am I eligible?

Under the Succession Act 2006 (NSW), there are a few specific groups that are eligible to contest a will. These include family members like children, spouses and de facto partners, and anyone who was financially dependent on the deceased.

While these categories are fairly broad, eligibility alone will not be enough to successfully contest a will, it is just one of the factors that is taken into account in these cases.

2) What obligation did the deceased have towards me?

As well as proving they are eligible to contest a will, individuals will need to establish the obligation the deceased had towards them.

This can be difficult to establish and is a point where it is important to seek legal advice. However, the clearer it is that a deceased person had an obligation to support you, the stronger your case will be.

3) How much time has passed? 

Strict time limits apply when considering an estate dispute. As part of the process of settling an estate, the executor is required to advertise the estate so that individuals who are eligible can take legal action. Once an individual responds, they will also have a set length of time in which to undertake any legal action.

For those considering an estate dispute, it's important to meet these time limits by indicating their intention early and then undertaking any action before these deadlines expire.

4) What is involved in contesting a will?

Again, this will depend on your situation and the claim you are seeking to make. An estate dispute will often be settled prior to any action taking place or in the mediation stage. Rarely, cases will not be resolved through these methods and will require the courts to settle the matter.

For more on the requirements for contesting a will, or to begin an estate dispute, make sure to contact a wills and estates lawyer who can advise on your personal circumstances.