One only has to Google ‘estate dispute’ or ‘estate litigation’ to see the plethora of legal firms actively engaged in this area of law. The sad reality is that there is an increasing number of disputes and court cases involving deceased estates.
The disputes and resulting litigation range across a wide variety of issues including:
* challenges to the validity of a Will;
* challenges to the capacity of the Will maker to make a valid Will;
* challenges where a beneficiary has been involved in preparing the Will;
* challenges in relation to the interpretation of the provisions of a particular Will; and
* an exponential increase in the number of claims by children, spouses and in some cases grandchildren claiming a share of the estate in circumstances where they have either been left out of a Will or believe that they have been inadequately provided for. This category of cases is more commonly referred to as family provisions claims.
The increase in the number of family provision claims closely tracks changes in family dynamics which have occurred over the past 20-30 years. During this period, we have seen a significant increase in divorce rates and second marriages or subsequent defacto relationships. Upon the death of a party to a second relationship it is not uncommon for there to be tension between the second partner, the children of the first relationship and/or children of the second relationship. Unless careful planning has taken place, there is potential for an almost perfect storm.
While careful planning and communication are generally the keys to avoiding or minimising the risk and scope of such disputes, it is not possible to prevent a disgruntled family member from making a claim. In those circumstances it is important to get the right advice, whether as a potential claimant, as the executor of the estate or one of the other beneficiaries.
Dealing with estate disputes requires particular expertise and skill sets. DDCS has a dedicated team skilled in the area of estate litigation and dispute resolution. The DDCS estate litigation team comprises Phil Davey, who is an Accredited Mediator and has more than 30 years litigation experience, Rebecca Tetlow, the only Accredited Specialist in Wills and Estates Law in the Canberra region and Brendan Cockerill who has 15 years of experience advising in estate planning and business succession.
Succession law is a complex area that involves specialised technical knowledge. In addition, because most estate disputes involve families at odds with one another, a thorough knowledge and appreciation of family systems and a sensitive and pragmatic approach to problem solving is essential.
DDCS has the necessary skills and expertise to deliver the best outcomes for clients in all aspects of estate disputes.
If you or one of your clients requires advice or assistance in relation to an estate dispute, contact a member of our team for an appointment on (02) 62127600.