Disputes over Wills – What are the main causes – Avoiding Will Disputes

A recent national survey revealed that over one third of Australians have experienced conflict over deceased estates.  Why ?  How can you minimise the risk? Read on….

The research conducted by Slater and Gordon Lawyers showed that the main causes of wills disputes are:
•  A sense that the assets were unfairly divided
•  The division of sentimental items, such as photos, letters or clothing
•  Differences of opinion around what the deceased would have wanted
•  The use of an asset such as a house
•  Unethical or unfair behaviour of the executor

The research also identified the main factors that could help minimise disputes:
•  Greater communication and clearer instructions while the person was still alive
•  A letter or video explaining their approach and reasoning
•  Those left behind adopting a less competitive approach to the distribution of assets

In my experience as an estate planning and asset protection lawyer, it is all too common for people to have Wills that do not clearly explain how and why their assets are to be divided. Uncertainly causes a great deal of added strain and stress on grieving family members …… what did s/he really mean is a question that resonates round the heads of those remaining behind, and the answers then to err on the negative.

Thank you to the copyright owner - home truths in a snapshot

Thank you to the copyright owner – home truths in a snapshot

To minimise the chances of a disharmony and dispute it is paramount that people clearly articulate in their wills how their assets are to be divided and communicate the reasons why to the family.  The earlier the better.  Sometimes a letter to the executor explaining their wishes can be very helpful.

The single most important thing is to avoid ‘surprises’ and ‘misunderstandings’ that arise when you have passed away.

Identify potential areas of dispute before you pass away, and address them yourself.   Communicate, communicate, communicate – before you pass away.  Don’t let your will be a grenade that you lob amongst your family from the other side.

Have individual meetings or even family meetings to explain yourself.  Just think – if you can’t resolve them when you are there to manage expectations, how do you think your family will resolve issues when you aren’t around? It’s not difficult to imagine what will occur.
Leave behind fond memories.   Don’t let your legacy be a family feud you created.

Have your will reviewed every three to five years to ensure it is current; and keep in mind that changed financial circumstances such as the acquisition or sale of an asset, births, deaths, marriages and divorces are just a few of the events that may require a will to be reviewed.

I’m a specialist estate planning lawyer + professional traveller + keen photographer + political observer. I like to share my experiences across all four devotions – often as a mixed lot. If you like this blog please subscribe for more.



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Estate Planning Tip 1

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Estate Planning Tip 3



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Disclaimer: this blog is of a general nature for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Readers should seek specific help for their specific circumstances.

One Comment on “Disputes over Wills – What are the main causes – Avoiding Will Disputes”

  1. Correy Smith says:

    Avoiding misunderstanding and surprises sure sound like two important things to be aware of. Well, I know that my father went through a situation in which is was unaware of some of the lines in his father’s will. It seems like there is so much to read when it comes to leaving a will for a family. http://www.calvinnelson.com.au/CalvinNelsonCo2213/Page/24373/Wills+%26+Estates.aspx

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