What Happens When Beneficiaries Disagree?

Wills, Wills Variation | June 17, 2021

The passing of a loved one and the distribution of their estate can be a stressful, draining, and emotionally difficult time for all parties. Even if a testator gives significant consideration to their will, there is always a chance that the beneficiaries will disagree on one or multiple aspects of it. When beneficiaries disagree, it can drastically slow the distribution process. In some cases, severe disagreements may even lead to arbitration and estate litigation. To ensure that all parties understand their rights, it is important to know what happens when beneficiaries disagree. As experts in wills, estates, and trust law, the team at Linley Welwood understands the importance of being well-informed. That is why we have provided some information on what happens when beneficiaries disagree and what they often disagree on.

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What Can Beneficiaries Disagree on?

There are many elements of an estate that need to be distributed to beneficiaries, creating many potential opportunities for disagreements. Beneficiaries can disagree on the following elements:

The Distribution of the Estate

The term “estate” refers to all assets owned by the testator—property, belongings, bank accounts— and any debts they may have. The primary purpose of the will is to outline how the testator wishes to distribute their estate and who they wish to distribute it to. Unfortunately, beneficiaries may disagree on who receives certain belongings or distribution of monetary gifts. For example, the testator may leave a vehicle to their son, but another son may feel as though they are owed the vehicle instead. While many disagreements can be settled internally with the assistance of a mediator, some disagreements may proceed to arbitration and become an estate litigation case.

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Who is/is not Named in the Will

Although every situation is different, most testators have many beneficiaries listed in their will. Though a lot of consideration goes into who is named as a beneficiary, there are instances where some family members are intentionally or accidentally left out. Individuals that are left out of a will may be able to file for a wills variation claim depending on the situation, prolonging the distribution process.

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Decisions Made by the Executor

Executors are named by the testator in their will. Their role is to enact the wishes of the deceased and distribute their estate based on their specific instructions. In some instances, executors may need to make a decision on behalf of the testator, if there are no specific instructions for a certain situation. Beneficiaries may disagree with these decisions and can apply to the court to remove the executor due to perceived misconduct. Of note, a beneficiary cannot apply to remove an executor for simply following the instructions left by the deceased.

To learn more about disagreements between beneficiaries, wills, and estate litigation, reach out to the team at Linley Welwood. Our experts can be reached through our online contact form and will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

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