A Deed of Family Arrangement is the legal document that records the settlement of a dispute or change in how the estate assets will be distributed by the Executors.

Challenges to Wills are more and more common with the rise in blended families, second and subsequent relationships and remarriages, the falling out of adult children with each other and their elderly parents, and the ease in which somebody can change their Will.

Often these challenges involve making applications to the High Court, which can be very time consuming and require a large investment.  Sometimes beneficiaries who have no dispute about what is in the Will find themselves being drawn into extensive Court proceedings and find their inheritances shrinking because of the argument. In some recent examples much of the estates ended up going in costs rather than to the beneficiaries.

Rather than going to Court out of Court settlement options are available, the most common is called a Deed of Family Arrangement.  A Deed of Family Arrangement records an agreement that departs from the terms of a Will, in order to resolve the dispute between beneficiaries and potential beneficiaries. 

It is recommended that people get independent legal advice before signing any Deed of Family Arrangement.

Deeds of Family Arrangement are usually required to be signed not only by the current beneficiaries, but also the potential beneficiaries of the Will, as well as the Executors of the Will.

When there are Court proceedings already occurring, a Deed of Family Arrangement (if used to settle matters) must be presented to the Court for Court approval before the Executors can distribute the assets of a Will to the beneficiaries under the terms of a Deed of Family Arrangement.

In most cases, Deeds of Family Arrangement can be drawn up and signed for a significantly lower cost than proceeding to the High Court to have a Judge resolve the dispute.  Deeds of Family Arrangement can often also keep intact the ongoing relationships between family members of the deceased, while Court proceedings can often split families apart.

Leading law firms committed to helping clients cost-effectively will have a range of fixed-price Initial Consultations to suit most people’s needs in quickly learning what their options are.  At Rainey Collins we have an experienced team who can answer your questions and put you on the right track.