Vancouver Will Dispute Lawyers
Inheritance is an emotionally charged issue and can lead to several disputes regarding a deceased loved one’s Will. Will disputes involve complex legal and evidentiary issues and various competing rights and interests.
Meridian Law Group understands the stress that clients may experience when faced with conflict involving inheritance under a Will. The firm’s dedicated estate litigators explore all opportunities to negotiate or mediate an early settlement of Will disputes. However, when settlement is not possible, Meridian Law Group’s team are accomplished advocates and will mount a robust trial strategy to secure clients’ rights under the law.
Contesting the Validity of a Will
A family member or other interested party may challenge a Will in court on the grounds that the Will is legally invalid. The court may set aside the entire Will or find that the invalidity is limited to only part of the Will.
Some examples of circumstances where a Will may be found to be invalid include:
- The testator lacked the mental capacity to create the Will at the time it was made;
- The testator was forced to make the Will under duress or through undue influence by some else, such as an unscrupulous beneficiary;
- The terms of the Will are confusing or vague or lead to an unreasonable result if strictly followed. The executor or beneficiaries may apply to the court for help interpreting the Will;
- There is evidence that the testator revoked the Will or replaced it with a later Will; or
- The testator made a mistake that may need to be fixed by the court or set aside if it cannot be rectified.
Identifying Estate Assets
In the course of an estate’s administration, a party may discover that assets jointly held between the testator and another individual were transferred before the testator’s death. The person with whom the assets were jointly held may have orchestrated the transfer to avoid sharing the property with the estate, contrary to the testator’s wishes.
An executor, beneficiary, or another interested party may need to review any pre-administration transfers of jointly-held property to determine whether those assets should form part of the estate. Disputes over the distribution of estate assets can pose many evidentiary challenges. Therefore, parties should consult with an experienced estate litigation lawyer and financial expert as needed to ensure that all estate assets are correctly traced and accounted for. Legal action may be required to claw back the disbursed funds into the pool of estate assets.
A deceased person’s spouse or child may feel that they have not received a fair share of their loved one’s estate under their Will. In British Columbia, a legally valid Will may be challenged under the Wills, Estates and Succession Act on the grounds that it does not adequately provide for the proper maintenance and support of the testator’s spouse or child.
In determining whether the spouse or child are entitled to a larger portion of the estate assets than provided under the Will, the court must balance the right of a testator to dispose of their property as they see fit with their obligations to support their spouse and children.
Eligible Will Variation Claimants
For the purposes of a Will variation action, a “spouse” includes common law spouses. Separated spouses might not be entitled to seek a Will variation if they lived apart for two years prior. Similarly, common law spouses cease to be eligible to bring a Will variation claim once the relationship has ended.
A testator’s biological and adopted children, including an adult child, are entitled to bring a Will variation claim under the Wills, Estates and Succession Act.
Considerations for a Will Variation
Will variation claims are highly dependent on each case’s facts. Courts will review all relevant circumstances, including:
- The value of the estate;
- The testator’s relationship with the spouse or child;
- Any evidence of the testator’s intentions or promises to provide for the spouse or child;
- The spouse or child’s conduct;
- Any support or gifts provided by the testator to the spouse or child during their life or outside of the Will; and
- The spouse or child’s needs and financial means.
As Will variation claims pose unique evidentiary challenges, a spouse or child should seek legal advice about their options and entitlements under the circumstances of their case. It is important to note that Will variation actions are subject to a strict limitation period and must be brought within 180 days after the grant of probate.
Contact Meridian Law Group in Vancouver for Trusted Advice on Will Disputes
Meridian Law Group helps clients navigate Will disputes by providing them with robust advice and creative legal solutions. The firm’s responsive estate litigation team takes swift and decisive action to protect clients’ interests and resolve conflict as efficiently as possible. When a Will dispute cannot be resolved through negotiation, the seasoned litigators of Meridian Law Group are a commanding presence in the courtroom and deliver results that exceed client expectations.
Meridian Law Group has developed a reputation for legal excellence since 1988. The firm is located in downtown Vancouver and assists clients in West Vancouver, North Vancouver, Coquitlam, Penticton, Kelowna, Richmond, New Westminster, Burnaby, Surrey, Langley, and White Rock. To schedule a confidential consultation with an experienced estate litigation lawyer, reach out online or call (604) 687-2277.