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Posted By on 04/09/2019

A Gentle Path Through Estate Dispute Resolution

A Gentle Path Through Estate Dispute Resolution

Disputesover estates can be an emotionally draining experience. Manyintangible factors tend to be present in estate matters. Hurtfeelings can be hard to overcome and can be severe stumbling blocksin a settlement. These sentiments can be fueled by a lack of trust orsimply as a result of ineffective communication between parties,which can simmer and boil over into emotionally-charged disputes andlitigation. 


Acompetent estate litigation lawyer is able to guide clients away fromthe emotional aspects of the dispute and direct them towards itsresolution, often through non-litigious routes such as mediation. Notall family disputes can be avoided, particularly where complexemotions or significant imbalances are involved. However, estatelitigation lawyers, through open discussions, can take measures tominimize the need for litigation in court, or at the least reduce thescale of issues at an early stage, and save already tense familydynamics from deteriorating further.


Considerthe following scenario: Sandra, a wife and mother of two daughters,June and Rose, died, bequeathing her possessions to her survivinghusband, as well as both her daughters. Each daughter was bequeathed$40,000. Sandra also divided her jewelry between her daughters. 60%to June, her eldest daughter, a married 28-year-old with children,and 40% to Rose, her youngest daughter, an unmarried 19-year-oldwithout children. Among the jewelry Sandra bequeathed to June, was aring that Sandra’s husband had gifted Sandra at the time Rose wasborn. The ring was set with the birthstone of Rose’s birth month.


Sincethe birthstone mounted on the ring was aligned to her birth month,Rose expected to inherit it as an heirloom, which she could pass onto her own descendants. Although the $500 ring itself was ofrelatively low intrinsic value, it carried great sentimental valuefor Rose. June also felt that she was the intended beneficiary of thering as her own child was also born in the birthstone month. Shebelieved this was the reason Sandra had seen it fit to bequeath thering to her.


Theirsurviving father, who was the Executor of Sandra’s Will, was notcertain of how to resolve the intensifying dispute between his twodaughters. All three of them decided to seek legal counsel to findresolutions to this dispute. Through the help of estate litigationlawyers and hours of informal discussion, an out of court settlementwas reached in which Rose offered to put forward $5,000 towards acollege fund for June’s daughter in exchange for inheritance of thering. All three of them found the outcome of the negotiation mutuallybeneficial and satisfying.

Whilethe Wills, Estates and Succession Act of British Columbia hasprovided provisions for Wills to be challenged, varied and cured ofdeficiencies, court proceedings can be very stressful and causeanxiety that can take a toll on individuals and family relationships.Court proceedings can also be financially expensive, as costs such asexpert witness and lawyer fees and even travel expenses may quicklyadd up, putting pressure on parties and on the finances of theestate. Time is another disadvantage of court trials. Parties mayspend hours away from work to attend court proceedings which may befurther drawn out if decisions are appealed. 


Familydisputes can be a very private matter, and litigation in court willresult in information becoming public, which may be uncomfortable forparties who would like to maintain the privacy of their familyaffairs. During informal dispute resolution, such as mediation,clients are assured that the process is completely confidential andthat anything that is said or admitted cannot be used against them ata later date. The fact that there will be no public record of themediation may provide some clients with the comfort to say thingsthat would otherwise have remained unsaid. The opportunity toparticipate in open and frank discussions may be the key to resolvingoutstanding issues that might not otherwise be addressed in thelitigation process.


Helpforme,the Personal Legal Services division of Hammerberg Lawyers LLP, hasextensive knowledge of Wills variation law and provides clients withthe impartial legal counsel they need to help them throughemotionally-charged disputes.


Helpformeoffers a free consultation and will work quickly to determine whetheryou have a valid claim under the law. The firm has a uniquelypersonal and empathetic client approach, which emphasizes guidingpeople through a difficult and emotional dispute and leading themthrough a resolution process to restore their sense of justice. TheHelpforme team also assert that not all estate disputes need toinvolve litigation – Helpforme estate litigation lawyers are also experienced negotiators and can often find amicablesolutions among beneficiaries that, if desired, can unite dividedfamilies.


Asfor legal fees, Helpforme takes a personalized approach depending oneach client’s situation and where possible, takes claims on acontingency basis.  Helpforme’s estate litigation group focuses onassisting people in a process that is too complex to resolve on theirown while keeping their best interests in mind and adding value everystep of the way.

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