Gifts left in a will can be the focus on inheritance disputes, but not always. What happens if you discover the deceased’s estate had been significantly reduced by lifetime gifts?
The general rule with lifetime gifts is similar to the longstanding principle of testamentary freedom that apply to gifts left in a will – a person is free to gift their money or property to whoever they wish.
However a lifetime gift will be invalid if a person did not have sufficient mental capacity to make the gift or their decision was a result of undue influence by someone likely to benefit from the gift.
You may be a beneficiary under a will and disappointed to find you receive nothing or far less than expected because money or even property assets were transferred during the lifetime of your relative and no longer available in the estate to come to you under the will.
Concerns about the legitimacy of a significant lifetime gift can arise on similar grounds to inheritance disputes focussing on the will. For example concerns around mental capacity to make the gift/transaction, undue influence or even fraud or forgery.
Sadly those most trusted, such as relatives added to a bank mandate, trusted with bank cards or even appointed as an attorney, can be guilty of financial abuse of the elderly / vulnerable. The trust and corresponding access given to finances can in some cases be abused by misappropriation of funds.
We can assist you in making demand for explanation of gifts that are not rational or are tainted with suspicious circumstances or patterns of unusual spending. If investigations do not result in a satisfactory explanation to justify the lifetime gift then a court action can be brought to declare invalid and set aside the gift.
In some instance a reversed burden of proof applies. This means that it is up to the recipient of the gift to prove that they did not exert undue influence.
If you would like assistance in challenging a lifetime gift, or a lifetime gift you have received has subsequently been challenged then please Contact us.