Key Terms to Know For a Family Dispute Over Will

A family dispute over wills exacerbates what’s already a difficult period of time for any family. Throw the struggle amongst siblings and extended family members over the legitimacy of a legal document aside. Above all, there’s the added pressure of the loss of a valued loved one. 

In time, you’ve got a recipe for family business disaster. Just tack on a few ingredients: 

  • First off: money.
  • Then add on real estate.
  • Not to mention the additional non-family parties involved in probate.
  • Some sibling disputes always give the recipe a bit of zest.
  • Finally, the intricacies of a blended family (where applicable).

So there are some questions you’ll undoubtedly have about the process of disputing a will. The one we aim to answer below is “What language are these lawyers speaking?”

Family Dispute Over Will Terminology Guidance

In this piece, our goal is to lay out the key players and common vocabulary involved in a will dispute. The Inheritance Experts know the subject inside and out. So treat this post as an A-to-Z guide of definitions for the personnel and terms involved in any probate.

PERSONNEL

Administrator / Estate executors

These are different, but they have relatively similar roles at the end of the day.

If no will exists or the will does not name an executor, an administrator will be appointed.

If a will does exist and such a person is appointed to administer the will’s intentions, that person is an estate executor(s). By designation, this person or these people are declared in the will by the deceased as the party best equipped to carry out the wishes of the deceased person.

An estate executor presents the will for probate to a judge. By law, funds and assets are frozen from disbursement amongst beneficiaries until a probate judge approves it.

Beneficiaries

This is the common area where sibling rivalry comes into play. In general, a beneficiary is any party or person in the will who becomes a recipient of assets or monies within the estate plan. 

Please note that this can include matters of sentimental (as opposed to monetary) value. For instance, assets such as a pet, figurine, rose bush or toy can fall into the designation of sentimental value.

As you can imagine, some beneficiaries aren’t going to be satisfied.

Discretionary beneficiaries

These are individuals or entities that a grantor names in a trust, life insurance policy, or retirement plan. What makes them different from regular beneficiaries is that they have no legal proprietary interest.

Estate Planning Attorney or Personal Representative

This is a specialist solicitor whose expertise lies in advising clients in planning their estate. As a result, these lawyers know the laws and intricacies surrounding the creation of a will.

Guardian

A guardian is a person who can look after the interests of a child in estate matters. In Scotland, the age constituting the need for a guardian is 16; elsewhere in the UK, children are under 18 years old.

Trustee

If a certain beneficiary is unable to hold property yet, a trustee will do it for them until they are permitted. Furthermore, the trustee is responsible for administering the trust assets.

Family Dispute Over Wills can get contentious - it helps to know the terminology and principles involved.

With a family dispute over wills, things can get contentious. So it helps to know the terminology and principles involved.

PROCEDURAL TERMS

In the process of handling the family dispute over wills, there’s certain common vocabulary you’ll need to be aware of.

Assets

Assets, in short, consist of property owned by the person who died. These include a house, household goods, savings or investments. 

Bequest & Chargeable Gift

A bequest covers gifts disseminated in the will.

Chargeable gifts are similar but are so valuable as to require payment of an inheritance tax.

Codicil

This is a document that has the power to amend (but to be clear, does not necessarily replace) a will. Because a codicil has the power to adversely affect a will, a re-write tends to be the more common course of action.

Grant of Probate

A grant of probate is an official legal document from the Court confirming that the will’s executor has the authority to act. In turn, this document validates a will and makes the distribution of the assets possible.

  • In Scotland, this document is a Confirmation of the Estate.

Inheritance tax

This is the tax monies payable when an estate exceeds the current inheritance threshold. As of 2020, this amount includes estates at or above £325,000.

Intestate

In short, an estate becomes intestate when the person dies and they don’t subsequently leave a legally valid will.

Legacy

A legacy applies to a specific gift or cash item left in a will (the rose bushes, for instance). Any property, however, cannot be a legacy gift.

  • A gift of money is a Pecuniary legacy.
  • When the legacy is a specific gift or object, it’s a Specific legacy.

Residue

This is a term that addresses the remaining balance of the estate after all payments have been made. In essence, these payments include funeral expenses, debts, legacies and any other taxes.

  • The party who is receiving the residue balance is a Residuary beneficiary.

About the Inheritance Experts and a Family Dispute Over Will

This post is part of our ongoing series covering issues about contesting a will and securing your inheritance. Our goal is to keep you informed on the latest issues and risks involved with disputing wills and probates.

A Guide To Handling a Trust Dispute

When a family member passes away, it’s a hard time for everyone who knows and loves them. It can make it difficult to deal with the legal side of things, specifically executing their will and the potential of a trust having been left. A trust dispute, for instance, is a particularly difficult piece to deal with.

If a trust is in place and you dispute how the trust has been set up or the distribution of your loved one’s assets, we can help.

This guide will give you the information you need to help settle the trust dispute in the right way. Moreover, you can make sure the result is what your family member wants.

What a trust dispute is

Death is not something you will hopefully face regularly. Accordingly, that means you won’t know all the legal jargon surrounding the leaving of an estate through a will. To begin with, you need to know exactly what a trust is.

A trust is when the testator leaves some of their estates to a trustee. In turn, the trustee ensures that it then goes over to a third party. Known as ‘the benefactor’, they take charge at the appropriate time. This is often the case when money or assets go to someone under the age of 18; in essence, safeguarding their inheritance.

What are the grounds to start a trust dispute?

There are many reasons why a trust could be up for dispute. These include:

  • Administration or running of the trust;
  • The value of the assets;
  • The interpretation of the trust, and;
  • Difficult trustees or feuding beneficiaries.

The above are the most common problems you will encounter but are not the only ones. Being aware of the issues particular to your circumstances that could arise from the start help. In short, it will hopefully mean you can see potential problems further up the road and take evasive action.

How do you resolve a trust dispute?

The most effective way to resolve issues is to

  • seek out legal advice and;
  • should it come to it, representation from legal professionals who specialise in inheritance law.

Trust dispute solicitors are experts in the field and can help you with the process of handling a trust dispute.

It is important that you get professional legal support. You need to make sure that the assets left behind by the testator distribute fairly and to the right people.

With money clouding the matter, some people only have their own interests at heart. That’s true even in the aftermath of a death, and this can lead to dispute. Trust disputes can be confusing and distressing, so the best thing you can do is to act quickly. In short, you need to ensure you are doing right by your family member’s wishes.

How we can help

At The Inheritance Experts, we work with specialist law firms who are experts in helping people to resolve trust disputes. This means they are also competent enough to help you and ensure you receive fair treatment on the terms of a trust.

If you believe you have grounds to dispute a trust your loved one put in place and want to know if you have a realistic claim, do not hesitate to get in touch with The Inheritance Experts via the contact form on our website or by calling 0161 413 8763.

Do I Have the Legal Right to Dispute a Will?

We say it often: experiencing the death of a loved one is never easy. When there are financial matters to attend to after they pass away, this adds even more distress to the grieving process. However, when it comes to the legal right to dispute a will, you need to explore your options.

Before you enter into a legal dispute over a will, ask yourself if it’s worth the tensions that may arise within your family. If so, here is how you assess whether or not you can legally dispute it, and how to increase your chances of a successful claim.

Legal right to dispute a will: the grounds to do so

Merely holding suspicions over a will is not enough to give you legal sway when disputing it. Most solicitors will require that you have solid legal grounds for a dispute before they accept a case.

Legal grounds may cover circumstances where:

  • There was no valid execution of the will.
  • Situations where there was no knowledge or approval of the will.
  • Any rectification grounds.
  • Undue influence.
  • Revocation.
  • Lack of testamentary capacity.

Further legal help may be necessary when contesting a will that may be fraudulent. This presents you with grounds to involve the police and could well result in a longer investigation.

Who can legally contest a will?

It is not just the grounds for disputes that you must consider. When assessing whether you are legally able to contest a will, you must also consider who you are. There is a long list of people who can do this. If you are on here, you are off to a good start:

  • Family members directly related to the deceased, e.g. Children or grandchildren.
  • Spouses who are still legally married to the testator.
  • Someone who expects something in the will before the testator dies, but was left out of it.
  • Debt creditors.
  • Someone who financially dependent on the testator.
  • A beneficiary set in a previous will, but not this one.

How to begin a dispute

Remember that as soon as a dispute is brought to light, you will have plenty of time to make sure you cover each stage of the process as thoroughly as possible. It helps to have a solicitor on hand throughout this time, who can provide both emotional and legal support to everyone involved.

While finding the right solicitor is a great first step, you must also make sure you have enough proof when presenting your findings. This is because merely speculative cause for a claim is lacking. It simply won’t give you the legal backing you need to ensure your claim is successful. Furthermore, you may launch a full-scale investigation into the validity of the will in the lead up to this.

It must also be noted that if you are set on disputing a will, do this before probate goes through to avoid drawing it out. It is more affordable for all parties to try mediation before beginning a dispute. Ultimately, however, one in four siblings say they would dispute a will. So, if an agreement cannot be reached, you are perfectly right to dispute yourself. This is as long as you are aware of the risks that come with a dispute.

How to Handle a Trust Dispute

Knowing how to handle a trust dispute is becoming increasingly relevant to inheritance affairs. It provides a unique way to minimise estate taxes, for one thing. Also, trusts are becoming a more popular solution instead of wills for when you wish to leave money to a family member after death.

The thing is that while a trust benefits someone else, it must be in waiting until this beneficiary comes of age. Alternatively, until they reach a certain set of requirements that allows the assets to go into their care. While this kind of arrangement can benefit some people, not always. In short, it also paves the way for disputes over who the assets should really belong to.

To handle a trust dispute, while messy, it requires paramount sensitivity. Here’s how to do it.

Establishing your claim

Before you go about making a trust dispute, it’s best to establish why your claim would be viable. Many people dispute trusts because:

  • assets aren’t split fairly between trustee members;
  • someone wishes to remove a trustee from the trust, or;
  • there have been significant issues with the handling of the trust.

These claims may present reasonable ground to work from – if you have proof. With evidence, it always makes more sense than what the conditions of the trust initially lay out. For example, if someone unknown to a family is in receipt of an entire trust over the testator’s close-knit children.

Bear in mind that if you’re a vulnerable beneficiary, you may struggle to make a claim without the appropriate support. That holds whether you are not yet 18 or live with a disability. This is, of course, unless a trustworthy family member and solicitor can support you on your behalf.

Finding the right solicitor

Knowing when you have a claim is only half the battle when you handle a trust dispute. You must then choose a solicitor to help guide you through the process. Accordingly, you’ll be able to understand legal limitations and guidelines at every step of the way.

Going it alone can result in you incurring extra stress and financial worry over an already sensitive issue, but it is natural to be wary about which solicitors you trust.

To help you make a sensible decision, it’s a good idea to use specialist online platforms to collate real-world recommendations. This way, you can be confident that the solicitor you have chosen will be able to help.

Funding your legal costs to handle a trust dispute

With 30% of people worrying about approaching a lawyer or solicitor over fears of cost, cost las always been a huge factor in putting people off making a claim. However, when you feel passionate about your case, it’s worth putting in a claim to see if it is successful. You can either create a payment plan for paying your solicitor, or you may seek legal aid. In any case, the most popular kind of claims is those which are no win, no fee. This is because they don’t require a claimant to pay any sort of monetary incentive if their claim falls through. If their claim is successful, then the assets recovered from this claim may help pay for the legal costs associated incurred due to winning.

Settling a Trust Dispute: What To Do

Settling a trust dispute can be a complex process, and a distressing time if a disagreement has to be resolved between family members. So we want to ensure that the process is as quick and straightforward as possible. In turn, it’s important to prepare for what to do with a dispute and how you can manage every eventuality.

Consider the Grounds for Settling a Trust Dispute

If you are planning to raise a dispute, you should consider the grounds that you have to base your claim on. Concurrently, the legal grounds to raise a trust dispute include

  • The trust’s signature isn’t in line with legalities or with the correct formalities.
  • When fraud is a factor in the process of creating the trust.
  • Undue influence weighs on the creator of the trust.
  • The trustee lacks the mental capacity to understand the trust or what they were signing.

So you must weigh the grounds on which you want to base the dispute. From there, you can then raise it with a solicitor and take the case forward.

Hiring a Solicitor for Settling a Trust Dispute

Next, you should always make sure that one of your first steps is that you hire trust dispute solicitors. Doing so ensures you know exactly what to do in terms of your individual case. Additionally, you’re less likely to make mistakes along the way that could impact it.

Solicitors can help to guide your case and help you arrange for the procurement of evidence. They can also help you to organise mediation and discuss the best options in terms of your trust dispute, including whether it then needs to go to court.

Arrange Mediation

Most trust disputes reach settlement once mediation takes way. In general, the mediation process has many advantages. In short, it will include two main factors.

  • First, you need to gather the trustees together.
  • Second, you must discuss the case, aiming to work toward a resolution.

However, a third party will sit in on these discussions, who can guide your conversation and aim to bring any disputes to a close.

It will ensure that the case closes before any sort of court proceedings can go ahead. Additionally, it enables you to maintain close relations with your family. Ideally, a resolution will come as smoothly as possible after the case closes.

Court Proceedings

You can go to court in order to remove or change a trustee who is in the dispute. To do this, you will have to present the appropriate evidence to a judge, who will then decide if there is enough evidence to support removing the trustee. This evidence must be written in documents or testimony in order to be valid.

Your solicitor will help you to arrange court proceedings, but the court should approve settlement agreements for the best practice, and they reserve the right to enforce these after the court proceedings.

Although family trust disputes can be complicated, with this guide, you will be able to navigate your trust dispute. It ensures that you will be able to resolve it as quickly and as simply as possible. And, more importantly, that you can sustain good relations between you and your family members.

How Do You Remove a Trustee?

When someone you love, be it a family member or friend, passes away, one of the ways they may decide to leave you some inheritance will be a through a trust. This is often a smart way to ensure that the money and/or assets that they leave you are safe until you are ready to receive them. However, trustees put in charge of your trust may not do their job properly for a number of reasons. In turn, you may have to remove a trustee.

Ergo, you can ensure that the wishes of the testator receive proper management. Or, the beneficiary that you are concerned about, such as a child who cannot represent themselves at this moment in time, receives the money and assets that rightfully belong to you.

Why would you seek to remove a trustee?

To remove a trustee, it’s often a case of necessity or of there being no other resort. There can be a multitude of reasons to do so.

For example, if the trustee becomes no longer fit to carry out the responsibilities associated with managing a trust. This could be due to illness or, indeed, their own death. But most likely, activities like heavy drinking or drug abuse inhibit one’s ability to responsibly handle the estate.

Another reason is that the trustee experiences undue influence from a third party. In turn, that influence causes them to mishandle the will. An example of this could be if the trustee enters into a new romantic relationship and this partner tries to encourage them to undermine the legality of the will and take funds and assets for themselves.

You can also remove a trustee when the testator declares multiple trustees take charge of the trust. Yet, in turn, they are unable to cooperate with each other.

How do you do it?

The removal of a trustee is not the easiest thing to do. You’ll need to present hard evidence, such as documents and testimony, of wrongdoing. Also, you must follow all proper procedures in doing so in order to remove a trustee.

The best way for you to achieve this, especially if you are not from a legal background, is to employ an estate litigation attorney. They can help you through the process and ensure that all the regulations and procedures are followed to the letter. As part of their job, they ensure nothing is done that could jeopardise your case. Trust dispute solicitors can give expert advice on this matter and help you with your case.

Why should you do this?

Seeing now what it takes to remove a trustee, it can seem like a lot of work. In turn, that might stop you from taking further action.

However, the person who left you this trust wanted you to benefit from it. So, it’s important for their wishes that a third party incapable of taking this responsibility seriously doesn’t interfere. Trust dispute lawyers can be on hand to help you find a resolution, seeking the best possible outcome in the shortest amount of time possible.

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