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Five Common Failings of Beneficiaries In A Bitter Probate Dispute

Posted: Friday, 4 January 2019 @ 13:43

When someone dies and family members are left dealing with such a situation people not only have to deal with someone passing away they can be subject to the difficulty of some kind of inheritance dispute.However, why is that some people are able to resolve their disputes quickly or indeed avoid them in the first place and others just get sucked into an ongoing soap opera namely a bitter inheritance dispute?

Is it just the terms of the will, bad luck, the way the other party is behaving or are some other factors at play which enable a beneficiary to end up making a mess of probate matter?

Here are some thoughts.1. The Lack of Control of Emotions.  The biggest failing of parties which I have experienced in a probate dispute is the lack of control of emotions(some may be justified) meaning that all the life time resentments which have been building up over years, maybe decades come out when the deceased has died and with this pent up emotion the danger is that the beneficiary loses control. This is a dangerous game as from experience, judges do not like parties who have too much emotion and come down hard on this. The key is recognising one's limitations and handing over day to day control to someone else who has emotional control and objectivity. This can be a lawyer or a family friend though with the latter he or she should have sound legal knowledge. 

2 Lack of Willingness to Listen To Legal Advice - This cocktail of emotions can play havoc with the ability to consider (hopefully sound) legal advice. The key here is for the beneficiary to be genuinely willing to listen legal advice and apply it. Furthermore, one of the dangers of the emotional beneficiary is that a lawyer may be afraid to give that advice as she or he is afraid of falling out with the client. If a beneficiary acts emotionally is that what he or she deserves? 

3 Tendency To Correspond Over Anything & Everything - Emotions can be useful in getting things done as they provide energy but what they can do is they can suck a party into any form of conflict  between the parties. Bluntly all this does is to create a cocktail of correspondence(often done on the hoof via email) and can undermine the good points which the beneficiary may have. The solution is for the beneficiary to be tactical and thoughtful and choose his or her battles carefully with long term consideration for how this will play out with the judge.

4 Tendency to Get Over-Obsessed By Small Issues Rather Than Big(More Significant) Ones - And linked with the above point, on occasions when I come into a new ongoing dispute I am finding the beneficiary doing a lot of fighting on the wrong issues or ones that are considered by a Court trivial. This can be frustrating or heartening for the lawyer depending on whom you represent - If you are representing the beneficiary you are thinking - How am I going to clear up this mess to make the case more presentable before a Judge? Alternatively if you are representing the executor - you think - Clearly the other side is emotional and I will make sure that the executor is seen to be calm and a contrast to the opponent enhancing chance of victory in Court.

5 Lack of End Game Plan - So what is the end result that the beneficiary seeking? Is it realistic? Will such an outcome give the beneficiary resolution and inner peace? Has this been discussed with the lawyer in a calm and objective way? How much does this cost? Are we working together to this? From experience some beneficiaries have not even considered these questions let alone asked them.