Experiencing the death of a loved one is up there with life's most stressful experiences. The last thing anyone wants to deal with while grieving is a Will dispute. Unfortunately, many people are left seeking estate litigation lawyers to handle Will estate disputes. It is a complicated process at the best of times, but it is even more complicated when a foster child contests a Will.
What Is A Foster Child?
There are all different types of foster care and there are all different kinds of foster children too. Short-term foster care is for children who are either waiting for a long-term carer or who are experiencing a temporary family breakdown. Short-term care might be for only a few months, but it can be as long as two years. If the foster child cannot be reunited with their birth family, then the child will transition into permanent care. There are a variety of reasons why a child may end up in care, from domestic abuse to substance abuse and addiction.
Permanent foster care is required (generally for children aged 5 to 12) who are deemed unable to return to their birth families. This type of ruling is generally rendered if the birth parents are deemed unsafe. In these cases, an attempt will be made to match foster children with permanent homes.
There is also respite foster care which is solely to give primary caregivers a break for one weekend of the month. Adolescent services are also part of the foster care system, with adolescents at risk of homelessness being matched with someone for support.
Can A Foster Child Contest A Parent’s Will?
There is no straightforward answer to this question because while a foster child can contest a parent's Will, there are strict rules surrounding the process.
If you as a foster child were either partly or wholly dependent on the deceased at any point during your life and lived as a member of the household then you can contest a Will. A foster child can be eligible to dispute a will, but it will still be an uphill battle to win the case.
It's an even bigger challenge to secure a large lump sum. It isn't impossible, however, and there are several examples of foster children who have been successful in doing so. The key in every successful case was skilled deceased estate lawyers. With a strong legal team behind you, you can still successfully dispute a Will even if it seems as though the deck is stacked against you.
In one successful contestation, the foster child had spent less than two years with the deceased's family. This was enough to make her eligible to contest the will. Her case was bolstered by the fact that long after she moved on she maintained contact with her foster mother. The Will left her a share of cash in hand and bank accounts, etc which amounted to a few thousand dollars. However, the deceased's estate was worth over $1,000,000. The estate was to be split evenly between the deceased's biological children, but the foster child had evidence to show their close relationship over the years. The Court considered, along with several other factors, and improved her award to $90,000.
In another successful case, the foster child had remained involved with his foster family throughout his life. They had dinner together multiple times a week, his children saw the couple as grandparents, and were involved in their extracurricular activities just as any other grandparents would be.
So, when both his foster parents passed away, he was surprised to learn he had only been left a nominal amount. With sound legal advice, he was able to contest the will and entered into meditation with the couples' biological children and together they reached a fair settlement.
How Do The Courts Decide Whether A Foster Child Can Contest A Will Or Not?
What factors are considered to decide whether a foster child can contest a Will? You must be able to show the circumstances of your relationship and show that any reasonable person would expect a similar award to a biological child or spouse.
Other factors include the age of the child when they spent time in foster care with the deceased, whether they were viewed as a permanent member of the family, the relationship while the foster child lived in the home, and how it was maintained after the child left the home. Additionally, they will look at the extent and type of support provided to the foster child in terms of emotional, education, and financial.
As an example, a child who spent years with the family and maintained a close relationship throughout their lives would have a strong case. Whereas, a child who lived with someone for any length of time but didn't maintain any kind of relationship thereafter would struggle to make their case.
Why You Should Seek Legal Help To Contest A Will
Will and estate lawyers are skilled in challenging a will. You can't make a challenge to a Will without legal support and you shouldn't start the process until you have sought legal advice. If you have lost your parent and are a foster child, get in touch with AJB Stevens today to discuss your case.