There are many reasons to contest a Will. You may want to contest a Will if you have been disinherited, received much less than your siblings, or if you suspect the Will does not represent the true wishes of the deceased person.
Before you head for the courthouse, you want to know if it’s worth it. Estate litigation can be costly. The purposes of this article are to provide information about assessing the merits of your potential estate claim and to give you a general idea of the average cost to contest a Will in BC.
Need help contesting a will in BC? Onyx Law Group has the experience and knowledge to help you maximize settlement value for contesting wills and trusts claims. Contact us today!
Only certain people can contest a Will and they must have legal grounds to do so. For example, only the spouse or child of a deceased person can bring a wills variation claim alleging the Will is unfair. The basis of a wills variation claim is that the deceased person’s Will should be varied because it failed to “make adequate provision for the proper maintenance and support” for their surviving spouse or children. If the claim succeeds, the Court will impose an alternative distribution of the estate assets that meets the deceased’s legal obligation and/or moral obligation.
There are other legal grounds that are open to anyone with a financial interest in the Will. Common reasons for contesting a Will include:
You can contest a Will without hiring a lawyer, but that comes with a lot of risk. Contesting Wills is complex. At the outset, how can you know if your claim is worth pursuing? What are your chances of success? How much could you receive from the deceased’s estate if you win your case? Are you at risk for paying another party’s costs if your case fails? Only an experienced estate litigator can answer those questions for you.
If you decide to represent yourself, you will also need to become very familiar with complicated laws, rules for legal process, paperwork and forms, including the Civil Rules of the Supreme Court of British Columbia and the Wills, Estates and Succession Act.
Some people start legal proceedings on their own, and then hire a lawyer when they realize they are in over their head. This is especially true in estate disputes, which are notoriously complex and specialized, and tend to be wrapped up with deeply personal and emotional or family issues.
You may already have a relationship with a lawyer. For example, a solicitor who helped you when you bought your house, or a barrister who helped you fight a criminal charge. They did a great job, so why not hire them for your estate dispute?
The problem is lack of expertise. Wills and estate litigation is extremely complex. It has its own specialized laws, rules, forms, and legal processes. A lawyer who does not have the relevant experience can’t give you a truly informed opinion on your case—and worse—may make mistakes that prejudice your claim. Switching lawyers after your case has started will increase costs and cause delay.
Another option is to work with a lawyer who specializes in estate litigation. Going to court to challenge a Will can cost thousands of dollars. It’s worth it to invest in highly qualified advice from a lawyer who specifically handles estate disputes.
At the initial consultation, your estate litigation lawyer will advise you on whether you have a good case and help you evaluate if your case is worth pursuing. Factors that influence the determination include the size of the disputed estate, the value of the assets you stand to recover from the deceased’s estate, and the strength of your evidence and legal arguments.
Your lawyer will explain the law and the evidence you’ll need to prove your claim. Once you have a clear understanding of your chances of success and the steps you’ll need to take, you can make informed decisions about how you want to proceed. If litigation is the best option, your lawyer will guide you through each step in the legal proceedings, making sure deadlines aren’t missed and that you always put the best foot forward.
Each estate dispute is unique, and the legal costs depend on several factors (discussed below). That being said, the average cost to contest a Will in BC ranges significantly depending on the unique circumstances of your case. Some types of estate litigation are more complex and can take years to resolve; legal costs in these cases will be higher than average.
Factors such as the type of legal representation you choose, the number of legal issues, and the number of parties to the dispute will impact the bottom line, but the complexity of the case is usually the top factor that affects the costs of a Will dispute. Complex litigation that involves several issues and multiple parties and witnesses tend to take more time to resolve, which will increase the overall cost.
When your claim is successful, you are likely to be awarded your legal costs, to be paid out of the estate. This offsets or reimburses you for at least some of the legal fees you incurred to contest the Will.
If your claim is unsuccessful but the Court finds it had some merit (for example, because the deceased will maker caused the need for the inquiry into the validity of the Will), you may still get your costs from the deceased’s estate.
But there are no guarantees. You might not get any of your own legal fees if your Will challenge fails, and in fact, the Court may order you to pay the successful party’s legal costs. Another great reason to get good advice from an estate litigation lawyer at the outset about your chances of success.
Lawyers either bill at their hourly rate or offer a flat fee for an initial consultation. Either way, the legal fees for an initial consultation are worth every penny. This is your opportunity to discuss your case, weigh its merits, and get an opinion on its likelihood of success. You will gain an understanding of your legal options and what steps to take.
After the initial consultation, the fee structure depends on the specific lawyer and the nature of your claim. Most lawyers charge an hourly fee with a retainer deposit paid upfront. As your case progresses, your lawyer bills against that retainer. Periodically, you will need to top up the retainer.
Throughout the litigation process, your lawyer will pay for certain expenses on your behalf, such as court filing fees, fees to serve documents, and expert witness fees. These expenses are known as “disbursements.” Your lawyer will include any disbursements in the bills issued to you.
This article discussed the average cost to contest a Will in BC. If you would like to discuss your unique situation and get a realistic estimate of the specific costs involved to contest a Will, contact Onyx Law Group today. We will help you understand the law, your chances of success, and the evidence you’ll need to win.
At Onyx Law Group, we choose to be a place of support for our clients while providing competent and passionate legal advocacy. Our lawyers have the experience and knowledge to help you get the results you want. Give us a call at (604) 265-9914 if you’re considering contesting a Will in British Columbia.
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