One of the most common ways that disputes arise after the death of a person is through a contested will, which refers to a disagreement over how a person's estate should be distributed. Many people wonder whether a non-relative can dispute a will, and it's important to understand the law and the requirements necessary to do so successfully. What do you need to know?
What the Law Says
The legal system allows any person who believes that a will is invalid or unfair to challenge it, including non-relatives. However, the person seeking to dispute the will must have 'standing' or be eligible under the law to do so. In most cases, a non-relative can only contest the will if they have a relationship with the deceased that would give them a legitimate interest in the estate's distribution. This relationship could be financial, personal or a business partnership.
What Factors Are Considered?
To determine if a non-relative has a legitimate interest in an estate, the court considers various factors, such as the closeness of the relationship, any promises made by the deceased and the degree of financial dependency. The court will also take into account the size and type of estate, the amount of money the non-relative is seeking and the strength of competing claims.
Demonstrating a Loss
A non-relative challenging a will must show that they have suffered a loss and that this loss was caused by the deceased's actions, such as failing to execute a will that reflected the promise made. For instance, if a friend promised to give you a particular asset, but the latest will leaves that asset to someone else, you may have grounds to challenge the will.
Coercion and Other Issues
When a non-relative is challenging a will, they may need to prove that the deceased was not of sound mind when they made or altered the will. Equally, they can argue that the deceased was subjected to coercion or undue influence when they were creating or amending the will. However, non-relatives need to be cautious when it comes to claims of undue influence since they have the burden of proof, and it can be difficult to prove after the deceased has passed away.
Another option for non-relatives to contest a will is through a family provision claim. Under the Australian Succession Act, a non-relative may have a claim to an estate if they were in a close personal relationship with the deceased, and the deceased did not make adequate provision for them in their will.
What to Remember
While it's possible to challenge a will as a non-relative, it can be challenging, and you should seek legal advice before moving forward to ensure that you have a strong case. Reach out to a local law firm, such as Young and Muggleton, to learn more.