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What if things go wrong with someone’s will and it is challenged?

Apart from potentially creating a juicy story for the media, if a will isn’t prepared well, or if someone doesn’t have a will in place (dying intestate – see this article), the death of a person can cause a lot of angst and stress for loved ones.

In the 6 years to start of 2024, there were nearly 16,000 applications for probate (if an estate is worth less than $15,000 it doesn’t require an application for probate), there were 352 disputes to the will that arose in either the Family Court of the High Court.  This doesn’t include disputes that are resolved by mediation, without formal proceedings.

There are a number of reasons that wills can be disputed, here are some examples:

1.    Belief that the will was made ‘under duress’

2.    Belief that the will-maker did ‘not have mental capacity’

3.    Belief that the will is not fair to all potential beneficiaries

4.    Will is not properly witnessed and therefore not valid

5.    Will is challenged on the basis of the Property (Relationships) Act 1976

6.    Will is challenged under the Family Protection act 1955 or

7.    Will is challenged under the Law Reform (Testamentary Promises) Act 1949 (when it is claimed that a promise was made to a potential or existing beneficiary)

Lawyers specialising in estate law will have learned about previous cases in New Zealand, Australia and the UK that may provide some kind of precedent or indication of how a legal challenge will go. 

This free-to-read NZ Herald article provides a few examples of when things go wrong https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/why-you-need-a-will-and-what-happens-when-its-challenged/56Z7QJNDH5FNJFRNS7JGLRQUQE/

While wills don’t have to be drafted by a lawyer, if there is anything ‘not straightforward’ about your situation, we strongly recommend that you do engage a lawyer to make sure that your will has the I’s dotted and T’s crossed.

If Moneyworks is your financial adviser, we are quite happy to run our eye over the document in an independent capacity to check for any drafting issues, before you sign the final document.



 

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