Navigating after-death affairs is rarely a smooth process. Families are increasingly paying the price of Will disputes which can cause undue stress in addition to financial costs.
In response to frequent dispute cases, many Australians are beginning to seek strategies that will prevent a dispute from affecting their estate and how it is distributed.
Those who make clear, legally informed plans now are more likely to have the final say on what happens to their assets after they are gone. This can be an empowering concept, allowing people to continue to look after their loved ones even after death.
Experts say it’s important to plan ahead for the possibility of a legal dispute by discussing the likelihood of contestation and anticipating who might win a case, as well as any important influencing factors that may skew the case one way or another.
Lawyers encourage clients to document their decisions not just in a Will but with an accompanying letter, affidavit, or statutory declaration that makes their wishes clear. Some clients are even encouraged to explore Will alternatives such as a trust fund.
In almost all cases, experts say that professional Will drafting is critical in ensuring effective documentation where lack of clarity cannot compromise a Will’s credibility or support a dispute case.
“The most important step in preventing a disputed Will is to get specialist legal help drafting that Will.” said Al Upton of Butler McDermott Lawyers, Sunshine Coast, who acknowledges the integral role of skilled legal counsel in reducing dispute frequency.
While legal experts agree that Will disputes cannot be avoided altogether, they cite professional drafting and documentation processes as a powerful force in improving the likelihood that a Final Will and Testament will be honoured.
“It’s true, however, that there is no legal wording that can stop a person from feeling as though they’ve been treated unjustly,” Upton said.
Planning to avoid legal disputes is important in reducing stress for bereaved families. In fact, some studies show that avoiding Will contestations can significantly limit emotional turmoil, as well as preventing the deceased estate from being spent before it can be distributed properly.
Australians who want to spare their friends and family unnecessary stress and complexity are encouraged to consult with a legal professional.
“Unfortunately, contesting a Will can be very upsetting for families,” said Upton.
With effective planning and careful legal consideration, it is possible to limit this upset and facilitate smoother estate management processes.