When a loved one dies, he leaves behind a last will and testament or simply, a will. It is a legal document outlining the assets of his estate, the beneficiaries set to receive such assets, and the executor of will who has the responsibility of distributing such assets as intended in the will. However, not all estates are administered smoothly. Many times, beneficiaries or those who have been left out of the will contest the will to fight for their right to a portion of the estate. Contesting a will is the process of formally objecting the contents of the will and how assets are distributed among beneficiaries. Challenging a will is the process of formally objecting the actual validity of the will, meaning that it may have been written through fraud, forgery, undue influence, or if it was left unsigned. Estate disputes arise when an individual contests or challenges a will. But do all estate disputes end up in court? The answer, simply, is no.


Estate Disputes and Mediation

Estate disputes are legal conflicts that arise when an individual decides to contest or challenge a will. Such disputes are facilitated by estate lawyers who provide legal counsel on how to proceed with fighting for an individual’s right to a portion of the estate. Inheritance lawyers are legal professionals who are well-versed in the intricacies of local inheritance laws and how it applies to such will disputes, making them well-suited in assisting clients who are interested in contesting a will.


According to a joint report by the University of Queensland (UQ), Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and Victoria University (VU), 77% of will contestation claims were successful. The most successful are claims made by partners and ex-partners, accounting for 83%, followed by claims made by children, 76%, and claims made by extended family, 73%. Additionally, not all contests end up in court, as legal practitioners encourage mediation to avoid the costs involved in going to court.


Mediation is the process of dispute resolution involving a healthy discussion between the parties, facilitated by an estate lawyer or an independent mediator. This is attended by the individual making the claim, the parties involved, and their inheritance lawyers. So what are the benefits of mediation aside from a smaller price tag on legal fees?


Mediation is unrestrictive.

Unlike court hearings wherein the judge will have to decide based on the evidence whether the will is valid or not, mediation allows for a freer discussion on ways to negotiate a claim. There is no questioning involved and participants or their representatives can speak freely as they wish without having to be judged. This allows for the development of better, more effective solutions and in the long run, an outcome that will benefit both parties.


Mediation is less stressful than going to court.

Contesting a will or challenging a will can be a very stressful endeavor both for the person making a claim and the executor of will. Pair this with the recent death of a loved one and this will surely be an agitating time for everyone involved. Mediation eases the burden as it provides a more comfortable environment where those involved can sit down and discuss in a healthy manner what they would like to get out of the will dispute.


It takes less time.

While lawsuits over estate disputes may take months or years and may involve a number of inheritance lawyers and other legal professionals, mediation can take only days or weeks. It provides a quicker resolution to estate disputes so that people can move on with their lives sooner.


It is confidential.

Court cases are public, while mediation is settled behind closed doors, making it more confidential or private. According to FindLaw, mediation is often chosen by those going through estate disputes because there are no records or transcripts involved that may be made public in a later time.


It provides more flexibility and control to the parties involved.

Court hearings are a rigid process that must be followed to reach an outcome or decision. Mediation, on the other hand, allows the parties involved to take control and come up with their own creative solutions to address the will dispute and have more of a say when it comes to negotiations.


It helps preserve relationships.

Estate disputes often cause relationships to fall apart. When relatives fight over assets, it’s difficult to patch things up. Communication between parties are often done between estate lawyers especially when there is resentment involved. Mediation allows for a safe space for both parties to air their concerns without judgement. Inheritance lawyers who are compassionate and supportive of such family relationships are in the best position to assist in will disputes.


If a will is contested, it is best to consult with inheritance lawyers to learn the necessary process and documentation required in defending a will. The executor of will is responsible for ensuring the integrity of the will and that assets are distributed as indicated in the will. In the case of estate disputes, mediation can provide a better, more collaborative environment for all parties to reach a settlement that satisfies all parties while preserving family relationships.