There are countless reasons why someone might be disinherited, and it’s never a simple story. It does, however, often come as a great shock. Even if your relationship with the testator (the person who wrote the will) was under strain, or even very distant, at the time of their death, disinheritance is a drastic step to take.
If you understand their decision, this shock may make sense in time. But, if their decision to disinherit you seems unfair or unexpected or inexplicable, no amount of time can take the sting out of the memory. This is particularly true if you were dependent upon receiving your inheritance, and feel that the testator’s death has left you feeling lost at sea.
With that in mind, here’s what to do if you feel that the testator’s decision to disinherit you was unfair or wrong.
Check the validity of the will
Wills are tricky documents to write and, even when written under the guidance of an experienced solicitor, there are many, many reasons why they could be invalid. From clerical errors to more malicious reasons like fraud, forgery, or coercion, if you can prove that the will is not a valid representation of the testator’s wishes, then it may be ruled invalid.
If this happens, then you may inherit a portion of the testator’s estate – provided you stand to inherit under a previous will or through the rules of intestacy.
If not, then you will need to prove some level of financial dependency on the testator when they were alive or where certain relationships exist, such as a spouse. If they had this responsibility for you, you could stand to inherit.
Negotiate with beneficiaries
This will be easier for some people than it will be for others, depending on your relationship with the rest of the family. It may be the case that, even if the will is valid, other family members consider the testator’s decision to be unfair or unfathomable.
If this is the case, they may be willing to give a portion of their estate to you. If each beneficiary is on board, they can all relinquish a smaller portion and make the distribution of the testator’s assets fairer.
It’s important to keep in mind that, while this may help you financially, it may not get you the answers you want about why you were disinherited in the first place. Also, if other beneficiaries are not willing to give up a portion of their inheritance, this can cause more heartache for you – and further damage your relationships with them.
Take Legal Action
If the will is valid and you are not able to get a share of the testator’s estate from other beneficiaries, then your only other option may be to pursue litigation.
If this is the case, you will want to reach out to will dispute solicitors as soon as possible. There are time limits for contesting a will, so you will want to get the ball rolling sooner rather than later or risk being disappointed and without any other options.
These legal disputes can take a long time to resolve, since the most important person – the testator – is not there to provide simple answers. Be prepared for a lengthy process and, possibly, further damage to your relationships with other beneficiaries.