How Could Estrangement Affect the Distribution of an Estate?

Posted on: 29 March 2019

With human nature being what it is, people sometimes argue and the results of that argument can fester and linger for months or even years. This is very unfortunate in the case of two family members, and it can often happen between a parent and their child with potential consequences ahead. If such a situation were to arise and continue through the unfortunate death of the elder, significant issues could arise when it comes to the distribution of the estate. What could happen here?

Understanding Estrangement

Much will depend on whether the child of the deceased was actually "estranged" or not. This can be difficult to determine, and especially if such a situation was deemed to be informal.

Pros and Cons

In the past, some children have disputed the estate of the deceased parent, even though most people involved in their regular circle understood that they were essentially estranged. A court may decide that a state of estrangement does not terminate the obligation of the deceased to provide for the claimant, especially if some financial arrangements were being made in this regard when the deceased was still alive.

However, the court may look into this even more deeply and determine who was responsible for the estrangement event. If it was determined that the applicant (in any estate dispute) was largely responsible and that no act of reconciliation had occurred, then they may vote in favour of the estate instead.

Best Course of Action

The will-maker should take concerted action if they intend to disinherit an estranged child from the estate. They will need to seek advice from an appropriate attorney while they review their estate plans and will need to know what risks are associated with their course of action. They may need to make a statutory declaration to describe why they have become estranged and will need to take into account the legal status of the child when they are doing so.

On the flip side, it is best if the two individuals in question seek a witness to confirm if any reconciliation has been made so that independent evidence can be brought forward as needed.

Advice Needed

In an ideal world, it is always best to patch up any differences and avoid estrangement altogether. If this is not possible, make sure that all potential outcomes are taken into account before the event of death, to try and avoid any claims against the estate thereafter. For more information or to get assistance with your estate litigation matters, call an attorney today.