It can be a shock to find out you are not receiving an inheritance that you were expecting. In some cases, it may make sense to dispute the will, especially if the will was written a long time ago or if there are concerns that someone manipulated the deceased into altering the will before their death. The following can help you determine whether to pursue the dispute.
The first thing to determine is whether you are eligible to dispute the will. Kinship doesn't automatically make you an eligible party. For example, you are likely eligible if the deceased is a parent, spouse or child, but you likely won't be eligible if they are a cousin, aunt or uncle unless there are other circumstances that closely connect you to them. For example, you may be eligible in the event the deceased was your former guardian or you otherwise were financially dependent upon them during their life.
Timing also matters, as there is a limited window following the death in which any disputes can be made. Each state or territory sets its own statute of limitations on filing a dispute. In some areas, the clock begins ticking once the will is read or probate begins, while in others it begins immediately at the time of death. Make sure to check with the specific state or territory so that you have the most up-to-date information on necessary deadlines.
Although you may be eligible and even deserving of part of the estate, that doesn't necessarily make it worthwhile to actually pursue the dispute. Small estates that aren't worth much more than the legal fees for the lawyer and filing, for example, may not be worth pursuing. A legal consultation can help you determine whether or not the dispute is worth pursuing financially.
Each interested party can put in a claim during the will dispute. In the event there are several interested and eligible parties, then there is a higher likelihood that your dispute will not be accepted by the court or that each interested party will be granted a portion of the estate. This may not be a concern with a large estate, but it can make it less worthwhile to pursue smaller estates.
Your relationship with the deceased can also impact whether your dispute is likely to be accepted, particularly if there are other interested parties that had a closer relationship. Being the child of the deceased may not be enough, for example, if there is another sibling or close relative that had a closer relationship with them. Generally, disputes are more likely to be accepted for those that had a close relationship with the deceased.
Contact a law firm like Young and Muggleton for more information.
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