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Wills & Estates Lawyer

A wills variation allows a court to change a deceased person’s will’s asset distribution if it’s unfair or inadequate to certain beneficiaries. It allows the court to intervene and adjust a will to provide for excluded or underprovided individuals.

The idea behind wills variation is that testators or the people making the will have a moral obligation to provide for their dependents, and the court must uphold this obligation when necessary.

NG Sidhu Law can assist you with your legal needs if you need a Wills & Estates Lawyer, power of attorney, or other legal actions and documents.

Reasons for Wills Variation and Disputes

Lack of Testamentary Capacity

Individuals creating a will must have the mental capacity to understand the nature and effect of their actions at the time of execution. Testamentary capacity depends on several factors:

  1. The testator must understand that a will is used to distribute assets after death.
  2. They should understand the extent of their assets and their distribution implications.
  3. The testator must clearly identify the will beneficiaries.
  4. They shouldn’t have delusions or mental illnesses that could obscure their judgment.
  5. Outside pressures or coercion shouldn’t influence the testator’s decisions.

If any of these elements are compromised by dementia, mental illness, senility, or undue influence, the will may be invalid. Many disputes arise when beneficiaries or interested parties believe the testator lacked mental capacity when creating the will.

Role of the Court

Courts resolve testamentary capacity disputes. They may examine the testator’s mental state at the time of the will using medical records, witness testimony, and expert opinions. If the court finds the testator lacked testamentary capacity, it may invalidate the will.

Undue Influence

Undue influence occurs when someone improperly or excessively pressures the testator to change their will to benefit them. Causes of undue influence include:

  • Relationship Dynamics. Undue influence can occur when a caregiver, family member, or trusted advisor has power over the testator.
  • Isolation. The influencer may keep the testator from trusted people to limit their insights and advice.
  • Vulnerability. Elderly, frail, or cognitively declining testators may be more susceptible to influence.
  • Subtle Manipulation. Flattery, emotional manipulation, and coercion disguised as concern or assistance can cause undue influence.
  • Unequal Bargaining Power. When the influencer controls the testator’s affairs or assets, the testator may feel compelled to comply out of fear or dependence.

Fraud or Forgery

A will fraud or forgery occurs when the testator or witnesses’ signatures are falsified during construction or execution. Because they compromise the document’s integrity and validity, fraud and forgery can cause will disputes.

Giving the testator false information to influence asset distribution is one form of will fraud. It also involves concealing relevant information from the testator to influence their judgment.

On the other hand, making a fake document or signing someone else’s name without their consent is forgery. Legal proceedings may render a will null and void if it’s determined to have been falsified or committed fraud.

Family Maintenance and Dependants

The law requires a deceased person to support their dependants and certain family members, even if their will doesn’t. This idea drives wills variation and disputes by ensuring eligible family members receive enough from the deceased’s estate.

Commonly, the following individuals are eligible to file a claim:

  • Spouses or civil partners.
  • Children, including adult children and stepchildren.
  • Financially dependent relatives like elderly parents or disabled relatives.

Improper Execution of the Will

When certain legal requirements aren’t satisfied, it leads to improper execution. This could include situations where:

  • No witness or testator has put their signature on the will.
  • Witnesses sign the will without the testator or each other.
  • While making the will, the testator lacked the mental capacity to comprehend its nature and consequences fully.

Services for Wills Variations and Disputes

Initial Consultation and Case Evaluation

ProcessDetails
Assessment of Client’s SituationThe lawyer will carefully listen to the client’s concerns and gather dispute information during the initial consultation. This may include information about the deceased and any case-related evidence.
Legal Issue IdentificationThis includes determining if the client has a valid claim for variation or contesting the will and if there’s a lack of testamentary capacity, undue influence, fraud or forgery, or improper execution of the will.
Legal Rights and ChoicesAfter assessing the client’s situation, the lawyer will explain their legal rights and options.
Strengths-Weaknesses AnalysisThe lawyer will honestly evaluate the client’s case based on evidence, legal precedent, and court success.

Legal Representation for Contesting a Will

Lawyers or law firms provide specialized representation to challenge the validity or provisions of a will. This service gives clients legal advice, guidance, and advocacy during will contests.

Disputes over wills require legal representation and court filings like a notice of objection to probate, statement of claim, or affidavit. These documents state the client’s basis for contesting the will and present supporting evidence and legal arguments.

Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution

Mediation and alternative dispute resolution (ADR) are ways to resolve disputes without litigation. A neutral third-party mediator or arbitrator helps the parties negotiate a settlement using these methods.

Mediation and ADR have many benefits, including:

  • Costs less than litigation due to lower legal fees and court costs.
  • These may be scheduled faster than court proceedings.
  • They’re confidential, so parties can talk freely without fearing legal repercussions.
  • Helps parties maintain relationships and avoid adversarial litigation.
  • Allows parties to explore creative solutions.

Court Representation and Proceedings

Law firms, such as NG Sidhu, are important in helping people involved in will disputes and variations by representing them in court proceedings. This service involves representing the client in court and navigating the legal process.

  • Court preparation. Legal representatives ensure their clients are fully prepared for court proceedings before their appearance.
  • Court documents.Legal representatives file all court documents for their clients.
  • Legal arguments and evidence. Lawyers present evidence and arguments to support their clients in court.
  • Settlement talks. In some cases, court representation involves negotiating and settling between parties.
  • Complying with court orders. Legal representatives ensure clients follow court orders and deadlines throughout proceedings.
  • Post-trial appeals. Lawyers can help clients appeal or seek other post-trial resolutions if a trial goes poorly.

Get the Legal Help You Need

Knowing the details of wills variation and disputes helps clients navigate these complex processes and ensure their interests are well-represented. Legal representatives assist clients in court proceedings and achieve a favourable case outcome by providing expert legal advocacy, guidance, and support.

At NG Sidhu, we offer legal services and comprehensive strategies to address your family’s future, so clients’ estates are managed according to their wishes. If you’re dealing with family law issues, criminal cases, or personal injury claims, we advise clients through every challenge.

Specializing in the Wills Variation Act, we help clients understand their rights and potential wills variation claims. Our expertise extends to the probate process, including strategies to minimize probate fees and ensure an enduring power of attorney for comprehensive estate planning.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Adam Hayes, an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, explains that a power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that lets an agent make decisions for another person, known as the principal.

The agent can have wide or restricted powers over the principal’s money, property and assets, medical care, taxes, or other matters. POA can focus on finances or health care. They grant the agent specific or broad authority. However, the POA doesn’t allow making amends on living wills, even changing beneficiaries.

Representation agreements alongside an enduring POA are legal documents that help individuals plan for potential future incapacity. These documents enable someone to appoint another person to handle their personal planning, property, health care, and financial affairs if they can’t do so themselves.

Estate administration involves managing and distributing a deceased person’s assets and liabilities, known as their estate, in line with their wishes or the law. When it involves a family-owned business, estate planning lawyers are important in navigating complex issues such as estate valuation, business succession planning, and addressing joint ownership concerns. For families involved in such businesses, ensure business law principles are adhered to for a smooth transition. This includes tackling estate litigation when disputes arise, and estate services become important in resolving these matters efficiently. Also, the ability to obtain court approval is important for any steps requiring legal validation. Fulfilling estate planning needs goes beyond simple will drafting; it encompasses a comprehensive approach to real estate law, business continuity, and safeguarding the estate’s value for future generations.