This article examines why estate litigation may increase in the future.
Advances in medical care allow each generation to live longer than the last, and that means that each generation tends to wait longer for an inheritance. As baby boomers reach retirement age, their parents may just be reaching the end of their days.
This could mean a rise in probate filings in the coming years, and perhaps, a corresponding rise in estate litigation as well. As adult children with a significant amount of debt compete for a piece of their money-saving parents’ estates, relationships within the family could feel the strain.
Baby boomers’ concerns
Parents may live longer, but that does not mean that they do so without assistance. For families who cannot take care of an aging loved one on their own, this often means paying for a nursing home or assisted living center. That money often comes out of the parents’ estates, which means less will be available after a parent passes away.
Aging parents may also require some help with taking care of their finances. Without understanding the ramifications, a parent may execute a power of attorney as part of an estate plan, but then also execute one proffered by a financial institution. Without intending to do so, this creates a conflict that may not be simple to fix.
In addition, one family member may isolate an elderly parent in an attempt to obtain a larger inheritance. Obviously, this could cause harsh feelings among all of the family members involved. When it comes time to probate that parent’s last will and testament, litigation could ensue through one or more family members filing will contests.
Baby boomers cannot just contest a will
Even though the law here in British Columbia affords its residents more options for contesting a will, an heir cannot initiate litigation regarding that document simply because he or she feels “slighted” by its terms. In order to file a will contest, one or more of the following scenarios must exist:
- Reasonable suspicion that someone forged the testator’s signature
- Legal requirements for execution are lacking
- Lack of capacity on the part of the testator at execution
- Reasonable suspicion that someone exerted undue influence on the testator
- Questions regarding the transfer of property to an heir during the testator’s life
- The will’s distribution of assets failed to adequately provide for a child or surviving spouse
To prevail in any of the above arguments, the contesting heir or heirs need to provide the c ourt with appropriate and compelling evidence. Only after careful examination of such evidence will the court make a determination regarding whether to throw out the will completely or alter a portion of it.
Baby boomers may need support
The complexities of will contests and other types of estate litigation may quickly overwhelm individuals who decide to embark on this path. It may benefit them to seek out the advice and assistance of a lawyer well versed in estate planning, probate and other estate administration matters.