The loss of a family member is an emotional and challenging time, which in many situations can unexpectedly devolve into contentious and protracted disputes. Seeking legal advice as soon as possible is extremely important to ensure you understand your rights and to be aware of possible issues that may arise.
Pursuant to the Wills, Estates and Succession Act, there are very strict time limits that apply to different matters related to an Estate, and delay can result in very prejudicial consequences with respect to your legal rights.
Types of Disputes
There are various situations that may lead to a disputed estate. These include, but are not limited to the following:
- You were completely left out of the Will, or left a nominal amount.
- You believe there were suspicious circumstances and/or undue influence related to the preparation of the Will.
- There is a Will, however, the person holding it will not share it or apply for probate.
- There were suspicious transfers of real property or money prior to the passing of a family member.
- Someone improperly used a Power of Attorney to personally benefit from the family member’s property prior to their passing.
- There was no Will, where the family member died intestate.
- There are no assets left in the Estate after the family member passed.
- The Executor does not file for probate or files for probate and has not administered the Estate in a timely manner.
- The Executor is misusing the property and assets that belong to the Estate.
How an Estate Litigation Lawyer Can Help
Contacting a lawyer might seem like a drastic and daunting step, however, if matters are not handled in a timely manner, you may lose the opportunity to challenge a Will or recover Estate Assets. Situations that may warrant you reaching out for legal advice include the following:
If you have been left out of your parents’ or spouses’ Will, or left an unfair share, then you may be able to apply to vary a legal Will on the basis of failing to provide adequate, just, and equitable provision for a spouse or child.
Suspicious Circumstances & Undue Influence
If you believe that your parent’s Will was made in circumstances where someone who was in a position of power or control over the parent and the parent was in a position of dependence and that person coerced the will-maker to leave all, or most, of the Estate to that individual, there may be a basis to challenge the validity of the Will.
Recovery of Estate Property
If you have discovered that impropriety has occurred where someone has improperly influenced a will-maker to transfer money, investments, real property, and/or other valuable property to this ill-intentioned person, and depriving the rightful beneficiaries of their inheritance; or if you have discovered that real property or bank accounts in joints names go to the survivor of the joint account or real property when this was not an intention of the will-maker, there may be a basis for an action to recovery those assets on behalf of the Estate.
Improper Conduct by an Executor or Administrator
If you are a beneficiary of an Estate and the Executor or Administrator has misused Estate property for improper purposes or has refused or neglected to act pursuant to their legal obligations to administer the Estate and depriving you of the entirety or part of your inheritance, there are various options to consider to address these issues and seek to have the best interests of the Estate and beneficiaries protected.
Previously published in North Shore News September 2021