When someone develops a comprehensive estate plan tailored to their situation, they usually rest easy assuming the estate plan will achieve their goals for after their death. Unfortunately, many issues can still arise – even if you have the best possible estate plan.
When a legal dispute arises regarding an estate, it usually involves conflict between family members. Since there is a lot at stake, these disputes can be highly contentious and can waste time, money, and family relationships in costly litigation. The estate lawyers at Spectrum Family Law in Calgary help families resolve complex estate matters in the most effective and efficient manner possible. Contact us today to discuss your concerns.
Learn More>> The Essential Guide to Estate Planning in Calgary
Common Issues in Estate Planning Litigation
As estate values keep increasing and family dynamics become more complex, disputes over estate administration become more common. The following are only some concerns that can lead to litigation.
Challenging a Will
When family members gain access to the terms of a will after someone passes away, they may find some of the will provisions suspect. It can be shocking to learn that a will favors someone surprising or leaves certain family members out completely. In such a situation, one or more family members may decide to challenge the validity of some or part of the will.
There are different grounds for will challenges, including:
- The document does not meet the formal requirements of a will under the Estate Administration Act of Alberta. However, the Wills and Succession Act (WSA) makes it more difficult to challenge a will based on technicalities, as long as the deceased person had true testamentary intent to create a will.
- The deceased person lacked the necessary mental capacity to create a will and devise property. Someone may invalidate a will by proving the testator did not understand the nature of their property, the effect of creating a will, or the identities of their beneficiaries.
- Someone exercised undue influence on the testator. This involves an unlikely beneficiary being favored in a will after engaging in the manipulation of the testator.
A successful will challenge can render a current will invalid and ineffective.
Learn More>> How to Contest a Will in Alberta
Even if a will is valid, it may not adequately provide for a spouse or children. In this situation, the law allows the spouse and/or children to request that the Court varies the provisions of the will in their favor. The Court will consider many factors under the law, including the moral and legal obligations of the testator. The Court may agree to vary the will, or it may find a reason to uphold the provisions set by the testator, such as abandonment by a spouse or mistreatment by an adult child.
Presumptions of Resulting Trusts
Sometimes, parents may transfer assets or property rights to a child prior to their death, and it may have unintended effects during estate administration. In some cases, a transfer may create a presumption that the child was holding the property in trust for the parent instead of taking over legal ownership. Some transfers that may result in this presumption include:
- Transferring title of real property or vehicles
- Transferring money to the child by writing a cheque
- Adding a child’s name to a joint financial account
- Adding a child’s name as a joint tenant of real estate
When this happens, the child must prove that the transfer was truly a gift in order to retain that property. Otherwise, the property becomes part of the estate to be distributed. This can often lead to estate litigation.
Calgary Estate Litigation is Complicated
Estate litigation is complicated for many reasons. First, cases often involve close family members going head-to-head and potentially accusing one another of undue influence and other misconduct. Anytime a legal dispute involves family, it can be both legally and emotionally stressful.
There are also many types of estate litigation cases that may involve many different laws and documents. Our legal team can assist with the following and more:
- Inheritances under the WSA
- Challenging or defending a will
- Contesting a trust
- Elder abuse
- Incapability and incapacity
- Guardianship matters and committees of estate
- Patients Property Act
- Claims for the misconduct of trustees and executors of estate
When your family is tied up in court, you need the right law firm on your side to protect your rights, as well as work to resolve the matter as agreeably as possible.
Discuss Your Concerns with an Calgary Estate Lawyer Today
When you are already grieving the loss of a loved one, the last thing you need is a battle in court. However, many people have reason to challenge an estate, or they may find themselves fighting against a will or trust contest. When this occurs, the Calgary estate lawyers at Spectrum Family Law are here to help. Call (403) 452-0043 or contact us online for more information.