A will communicates all the wishes of the deceased after their passing. Unfortunately, no will is airtight; it can still be challenged or contested by any concerned parties. In Australia, nearly half of all wills are contested by family members who believe that they deserve more than what the deceased provided for them.
While it is not possible to entirely stop anyone from ever contesting your will, you can take several steps to prevent it from growing out of proportion.
Who Can Contest a Will in Australia?
Anyone with a relationship to the deceased can contest a will. When contesting such a legal document, the concerned party asserts that they did not receive adequate provision. In such a claim, the contesting party will have to demonstrate financial need and prove that the deceased should have made a greater provision for them.
The court considers the applicant’s current financial situation as well as their relationship with the deceased. The provision for other beneficiaries is also considered—who else received provisions, and how much did they get? If the deceased had a moral obligation that they did not meet, the case will go forward.
Across all Australian territories, the spouse and child of the deceased more often than not contest the will that’s left behind. A named beneficiary in the will can contest the percentage they received and work to increase it. Even a grandchild is eligible to contest a will in some territories, especially if they were previously financially dependent on the deceased.
Preventing Someone From Contesting a Will
1. Ensure Everyone Receives a Reasonable Amount
One of the simplest and easiest ways to keep anyone from contesting your will is to leave adequate provision for all beneficiaries, especially those who you think may contest the will in the future. You certainly don’t have to make equal provisions for every single one of your beneficiaries—but it’s worth writing a thorough account of how you went about dividing your assets. If you leave comprehensive documentation of why you thought to provide a certain percentage to each of your beneficiaries, they will be less likely to contest it.
2. Reduce Your Assets
If you have a potential beneficiary that you want to exclude from your will, you can offload your assets to specific parties so they will not be included in your estate. For example, if you nominate beneficiaries on your life insurance policy, it will not be part of your estate.
Joint ownership will also ensure that only a specific beneficiary will benefit from that asset. A good example of this is jointly held bank accounts. If one joint owner dies, ownership automatically reverts to the surviving one. As such, everything in that account will only benefit one person!
Another way to reduce your assets is to “gift” them to your beneficiaries before death. Gifted assets are not included in the deceased estate and therefore cannot be contested by any party!
Before taking the previously listed steps, consult with an experienced and trusted family lawyer. They will help ensure that your assets will go to your preferred beneficiaries, no more and no less.
Any surviving spouse, child, or even grandchild can contest the will of the deceased. If they can prove financial need or unfair division of assets, they may be able to trigger re-distribution of the deceased estate. While you can’t keep your will from ever being contested, you can take steps to reduce the likelihood of it happening! Just remember to get a reliable lawyer on your side to really iron out the details.
Are you looking for wills and estates lawyers in Springfield? Springfield Legal Service has been offering expert legal services in the area since 1999. We are committed to your success, and we will work closely with you to ensure that we can meet all your unique needs and challenges. Contact us today!