Death within a family is never easy to deal with, and can be a traumatic time for loved ones and extended family. Conflicts over wills can be become complicated and drawn out, causing tension and ill feeling within families fighting over estates and inheritance. With divorce rates on the rise over recent years, modern family units have become more complex. This can make reaching an agreement more difficult, leading to more cases ending up in the courts.
A person can leave property or money to whomever they choose in their will. Common reasons for disputing a will include:
- A dependent was not properly provided for
- Loss of mental capacity of the testator
There have been several high profile probate disputes involving inheritance and property in recent years.
American model Anna Nicole Smith was involved in two major will disputes during her lifetime. The first case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme court where an earlier ruling had given the former Playboy model nothing from the $1.6bn fortune she claimed had been promised to her by her late husband. Oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall had died without including Smith in his will and despite appealing the ruling it was upheld several years after her death in 2007.
When Italian opera singer Luciano Pavarotti died in 2007 he left behind a fortune worth around £250 million in property, shares and royalties. His wife Nicoletta Mantovani was involved in a dispute with three of his daughters from a previous marriage. According to Italian law Mrs Mantovani legally inherited half of the estate, while the rest was divided between the three daughters and a fourth child Pavarotti had with Mrs Mantovani. The three daughters, Lorenza, Cristina and Giuliana, immediately contested the will as they thought they had been “short changed”. It was later revealed that a second will existed which left everything Pavarotti owned in America to his wife. Nicoletta and the daughters eventually reached an amicable decision to divide the inheritance equitably.
When challenging a will it is important to move quickly because otherwise the estate may be distributed to the wrong people. Once a case is in the courts the legal cost will increase the longer it continues, so exploring mediation to help resolve your case should always be considered.
Ridley & Hall Solicitors are an award winning solicitors based in Yorkshire. To find out more about contentious probate contact the expert solicitors at Ridley & Hall today.