Will kind hearts lead to will war?

John is concerned that his mother-in-law’s will may be contested by family members who have been excluded. Can estate planning lawyer Rod Cunich help?

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Q. John
My mother-in-law Marjorie passed away at the age of 97 – so it really was a celebration of her life. Her husband died 20 years ago.

There are three daughters in the family and when the eldest one passed away in 1997 Marjorie made the other two executors and also sole beneficiaries of her will.

Marjorie had eight grandchildren. Three of these were children of the eldest child (deceased) who she excluded from her will.

She said at the time that she did not want any money going to those three grandchildren, and that the money was solely for her ‘current’ (surviving) daughters.

The daughters discussed giving $50,000 to the eldest grandchild (the eldest child of their deceased sibling). He is expecting to gain an inheritance from this estate. One of the executors received a text message from him to that effect and stating that one of his siblings was in some sort of financial debt and that he would loan him the money pending an inheritance.

1. Would there be an issue in giving him $50,000 as a goodwill gesture?

2. Could he still contest the will, despite his grandmother being adamant that the estate was to be left to the surviving daughters.

A. John, it can be done in several ways but perhaps best to have all parties (executors and named beneficiaries) to execute a family settlement deed in which they agree to have the estate pay the money to him on a no-obligation basis and include his agreement not to make any further claim on the estate.

This way, it can be done safely and you achieve some goodwill across the family, although the other children of the deceased may complain.

Whether any of the deceased’s children have a legal claim on the estate is another issue. I have addressed this issue in my response to other readers.

Rod Cunich is a lawyer with more than 30 years’ experience who specialises in estate planning. If you have a question for Rod, simply email it to [email protected]

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Disclaimer: This information has been provided by Rod Cunich and should be considered general in nature – legal advice should be sought.

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