Losing some-one close to you is never easy and dealing with the aftermath of their death can be a tough task even when you have professional help. Unfortunately, bereavement can often lead to disagreements among the family or difficulties in dealing with the estate. We run through some of the most common problems which are encountered when dealing with inheritance claims.
If you don’t have lots of possessions or anything of high value you may think you don’t need to worry about making a Will. However, if you die intestate (which is what it is called if don’t make a Will) you have no control over who receives what.
Perhaps you may have promised your watch to your best friend or maybe you have always told your grandson that he will inherit your model train set. If you don’t leave a Will, all of your possessions will be dealt with in line with the law which has strict rules about who is entitled to receive what. This means that even if everyone knows who you wanted to receive your estate, only the individuals specified by the intestacy rules will receive an inheritance.
Dying intestate is a particular problem if you weren’t married to your partner when you died. Regardless of how long you have been together, intestacy laws state that your children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, grandparents and even aunts and uncles will receive your estate whilst your partner will not get a penny. The only exception are belongings which are held in joint names but even this may be more complicated in some cases.
When the Will is disputed
An individual is free to bequeath their possessions to whoever they so choose and it’s not uncommon for there to be a few surprises when the Will is read. Whilst in many cases this involves individuals receiving something they weren’t expecting, in other cases some family members may feel they have been unfairly left out or not received what they were entitled to.
However, contrary to popular opinion, you can’t contest a Will just because you think you should have received more, or because you were promised something you haven’t been left. There are only a few accepted reasons why you can contest a Will; these include the deceased being unfairly influenced and the Will being unfairly executed whilst being drawn up.
You can contest a Will if you were contractually entitled to receive something which was omitted or if you were financially dependent on the deceased. You may also dispute the way in which the estate is being handled; for example if you believe the Executors are not dealing with the assets correctly.
If you want to contest a Will or if you are an Executor and have received notification that the Will is going to be contested, you will need the services of a professional solicitor who is experienced in this particular area of law. This is a rather complex, not to mention sensitive, situation and a solicitor who has handled Will disputes before will help to bring matters to an amicable conclusion wherever possible.
How to share assets
If an individual has died intestate or the Will simply left certain belongings to be shared equally, getting agreement from all parties concerned over who gets what can be a real challenge. Splitting money or tangible assets can be relatively straightforward but deciding who gets personal effects such as jewellery can be much more difficult.
It can help to get the various items valued; this can make it easier to ensure that everyone gets their fair share.
If the items are of sentimental value rather than monetary worth, it can be even more problematic to reach a conclusion which everyone is happy with. One way is to simply take it in turns to select items; that way everyone will end up with at least something they really wanted. Picking ‘lucky dip’ style tickets is another option that creates a completely random and level playing field so there can be no accusations of bias.
If neither of these options appeals, you could ‘auction’ for the most desirable items, bargaining by giving up rights to other items in return for being allowed to have what you want the most. Sharing out the assets can be an emotional task and it’s easy to get the desire for certain items tangled up with the grief you may be feeling. It’s important to realise that the deceased wouldn’t want those closest to him falling out so getting all concerned to try and compromise wherever possible is really important.
Dealing with the estate and any inheritance claims is not always easy and when you are grieving the loss of your loved one, the task can sometimes seem a mammoth undertaking. In these circumstances you might want to think about using the services of a solicitor to deal with the estate on your behalf, particularly if there is the chance that the Will could be contested, to make the whole process as easy as possible.