A family dispute over wills exacerbates what’s already a difficult period of time for any family. Throw the struggle amongst siblings and extended family members over the legitimacy of a legal document aside. Above all, there’s the added pressure of the loss of a valued loved one.
In time, you’ve got a recipe for family business disaster. Just tack on a few ingredients:
- First off: money.
- Then add on real estate.
- Not to mention the additional non-family parties involved in probate.
- Some sibling disputes always give the recipe a bit of zest.
- Finally, the intricacies of a blended family (where applicable).
So there are some questions you’ll undoubtedly have about the process of disputing a will. The one we aim to answer below is “What language are these lawyers speaking?”
Family Dispute Over Will Terminology Guidance
In this piece, our goal is to lay out the key players and common vocabulary involved in a will dispute. The Inheritance Experts know the subject inside and out. So treat this post as an A-to-Z guide of definitions for the personnel and terms involved in any probate.
Administrator / Estate executors
These are different, but they have relatively similar roles at the end of the day.
If no will exists or the will does not name an executor, an administrator will be appointed.
If a will does exist and such a person is appointed to administer the will’s intentions, that person is an estate executor(s). By designation, this person or these people are declared in the will by the deceased as the party best equipped to carry out the wishes of the deceased person.
An estate executor presents the will for probate to a judge. By law, funds and assets are frozen from disbursement amongst beneficiaries until a probate judge approves it.
This is the common area where sibling rivalry comes into play. In general, a beneficiary is any party or person in the will who becomes a recipient of assets or monies within the estate plan.
Please note that this can include matters of sentimental (as opposed to monetary) value. For instance, assets such as a pet, figurine, rose bush or toy can fall into the designation of sentimental value.
As you can imagine, some beneficiaries aren’t going to be satisfied.
These are individuals or entities that a grantor names in a trust, life insurance policy, or retirement plan. What makes them different from regular beneficiaries is that they have no legal proprietary interest.
Estate Planning Attorney or Personal Representative
This is a specialist solicitor whose expertise lies in advising clients in planning their estate. As a result, these lawyers know the laws and intricacies surrounding the creation of a will.
A guardian is a person who can look after the interests of a child in estate matters. In Scotland, the age constituting the need for a guardian is 16; elsewhere in the UK, children are under 18 years old.
If a certain beneficiary is unable to hold property yet, a trustee will do it for them until they are permitted. Furthermore, the trustee is responsible for administering the trust assets.
With a family dispute over wills, things can get contentious. So it helps to know the terminology and principles involved.
In the process of handling the family dispute over wills, there’s certain common vocabulary you’ll need to be aware of.
Assets, in short, consist of property owned by the person who died. These include a house, household goods, savings or investments.
Bequest & Chargeable Gift
A bequest covers gifts disseminated in the will.
Chargeable gifts are similar but are so valuable as to require payment of an inheritance tax.
This is a document that has the power to amend (but to be clear, does not necessarily replace) a will. Because a codicil has the power to adversely affect a will, a re-write tends to be the more common course of action.
Grant of Probate
A grant of probate is an official legal document from the Court confirming that the will’s executor has the authority to act. In turn, this document validates a will and makes the distribution of the assets possible.
- In Scotland, this document is a Confirmation of the Estate.
This is the tax monies payable when an estate exceeds the current inheritance threshold. As of 2020, this amount includes estates at or above £325,000.
In short, an estate becomes intestate when the person dies and they don’t subsequently leave a legally valid will.
A legacy applies to a specific gift or cash item left in a will (the rose bushes, for instance). Any property, however, cannot be a legacy gift.
- A gift of money is a Pecuniary legacy.
- When the legacy is a specific gift or object, it’s a Specific legacy.
This is a term that addresses the remaining balance of the estate after all payments have been made. In essence, these payments include funeral expenses, debts, legacies and any other taxes.
- The party who is receiving the residue balance is a Residuary beneficiary.
About the Inheritance Experts and a Family Dispute Over Will
This post is part of our ongoing series covering issues about contesting a will and securing your inheritance. Our goal is to keep you informed on the latest issues and risks involved with disputing wills and probates.