Wills & Estate Disputes

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Wills & Estate Disputes

There are many different types of disputes which can arise for an Estate, including, for example:

  • When it is alleged that the person who made the Will was not mentally competent to do so;
  • When it is alleged that there are technical defects with the Will;
  • When there is a question about the existence of another Will, and which one should be followed;
  • When the deceased’s Will was changed shortly before their death in suspicious circumstances;
  • When the Will unexpectedly favours one beneficiary over the other potential beneficiaries;
  • When the named executor has not taken steps to deal with the Estate within a reasonable time; and
  • When there is unclear wording in the Will and the Executor cannot determine how to proceed.

Often these types of disputes must be dealt with in court. In some cases the matter is heard in chambers, with the judge reviewing the evidence in affidavit (written) form. In other cases, the issue requires a full trial with live witnesses testifying in person.

These cases are often legally complex and almost always emotionally difficult for the people involved. I handle these types of cases with the goal of solving the problem efficiently and cost-effectively, and not losing sight of the family and other relationships which may continue after the dispute is concluded.

Wills Variation Claims

When a person dies and leaves behind a Will, normally their Estate is distributed according to the terms of their Will. However, if the Will fails to make adequate provision for the proper maintenance and support of the deceased's dependants (usually a spouse and children), the court has the power to vary the terms of the Will to give the dependants a larger share of the Estate. In some circumstances, even independent adult children are entitled to a variation of a deceased’s parent’s will.

The court considers many factors when deciding whether to vary a Will in these circumstances, including the size of the Estate, the nature of the relationship between the claimant and the deceased, and the deceased's reasons for favouring some beneficiaries over others. These cases can be quite complex when blended families are involved and the deceased’s assets include a family business.

There is a relatively short time deadline (called a "limitation period") to start a Wills Variation lawsuit. Anyone who is considering this type of claim should consult a lawyer immediately.

Important NoteThe foregoing is general legal information only, based on the law of British Columbia. Readers should consult a lawyer to obtain specific legal advice about their particular situation.

Your Prince George and northern BC Lawyer and Mediator.

Contact Andrew Kemp