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Defending a Contested Will as an Executor

PCL’s contested Wills and Probate lawyers are experienced in providing strategic and technical legal advice to Executors about complex matters, including when a person not named in the Will, seeks to make a claim on the Estate.

Executors need assistance from an experienced and determined team to ensure that any claims against the Estate are dismissed or at least absolutely minimised and contained.

In Victoria, an executor has a legal obligation to defend the estate against any claim by a non-beneficiary seeking to claim an interest under a Will. All legal costs with a valid claim are generally legally required to paid from the Estate, so careful consideration needs to be given to the strategy taken.

The following are some steps an executor can take to defend a claim against an estate:

  1. Engage contested will lawyers to review the Will: to determine if the claimant is entitled to any interest under the will. If the will is clear and unambiguous, and the claimant is not named as a beneficiary, then the claimant may not have a valid claim.
  2. Verify the claim: The claim needs to vigorously assessed. Just because a claim is made does not mean that it will necessarily be successful. As the Executor, you should seek legal advice from a qualified probate lawyer in Victoria who is experienced in estate challenges in Victoria. After the initial advice you will have a clear idea as to the likely value of the claim, if there is a claim at all. There are both legal and strategic matters to be considered.
  3. Engage in mediation: If the claim is valid, the executor, engaging proactively in mediation or settlement sooner rather than later to resolve the dispute will save costs and preserve the value of the Estate, who will likely need to pay both sides costs, as a matter of law.
  4. Defend the claim: If the claim is not valid or if mediation is unsuccessful, the executor has an obligation to defend the claim in court. The executor should work closely with their probate lawyer to develop a legal strategy and be well prepared.

Distributing the estate

Once the estate claim has been resolved, the Executor can distribute the Estate provisions of the Will to the named beneficiaries according to the provisions of the Will, subject to any settlement or court judgment with the person making a claim on the Estate.

Getting robust legal advice on a contested Will.

Executors should ensure that they have contested will and probate lawyers representing the Estate. There is a lot at stake and the negotiation is mix of knowing the law (and how to enforce it) and how to strategically act, noting that the Estate challenge is usually from a known person.

Executors should be mindful of their obligations and seek expert legal advice to ensure the best outcomes.

From our experience, Estate and Will disputes are often best achieved when lawyers are respectful and polite to the claimant but firm on the legal issues.

Call us today or complete the form on this page to confidentially discuss how to defend an estate claim.

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