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On what grounds can disinheritance be challenged in court?

The practice of estate litigation often involves handling disputes over the emotionally fraught matter of disinheritance. In some cases, disinheritance is unintentional -- the result of an oversight or poor planning. In other cases, family members find themselves explicitly disinherited in the deceased's will.

The law in Ontario states for testamentary freedom -- your freedom to dispose of your property upon death as you see it fit. However, on occasion the courts have ruled that a testator's autonomy may not alwayas allow disinheriting a family member.

A good example is a case whereby in his will, the deceased disinherited his daughter, but the judge declared the will void because the motivation for disinheritance was determined to be racist and in violation of public policy.

However, a will doesn't have to violate public policy in order to be overturned. As discussed in a recent article in The Globe and Mail, disinheritance may be successfully challenged if the deceased had an obligation to meet the financial needs of the disinherited family member, for example, if the family member is a dependent of the estate.

Every case is different, though. If you intend to challenge the validity of a will, then don't hesitate to speak with a lawyer with experience in this area. After all, contesting a will can greatly deplete the assets of the estate.

At Hagel Lawfirm, we work to resolve will contests in a way that is cost-effective and proportional to the size of the estate. To learn more, please visit our estate litigation overview.

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