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Be clear on legal language to avoid disputes

A Lancashire law firm is advising how people can avoid disputes over the distribution of assets after the death of a loved one.

The advice follows the high profile case of the late actor Robin Williams, whose widow Susan Schneider has reportedly become engaged in a dispute with her step-children over the contents of his house.

Reports say that Ms Schneider had been left the property she shared with her husband in his Will, but a trust document states all his personal belongings should pass to his children.

This has led to confusion over whether certain items contained within the property left to Mrs Williams should stay in her possession, or go to the children.

Stephanie Kerr, solicitor in the Litigation team at Napthens, says that whilst Robin Williams’ estate will be dealt with by the US courts, there are ways that people in the UK can obtain clarity where the interpretation of language in legal documents is concerned.

Stephanie said: “The death of a family member is a difficult time and disagreements between those left behind can cause a great deal of worry, thus prolonging the grieving process.

“There are ways to make the process easier. You can ask the court to provide a declaration as to the meaning of words, based on evidence submitted by both sides and relevant witnesses.

“Depending on the circumstances of a particular dispute, it is often suggested that all parties try to resolve matters by avoiding litigation, for instance by mediation which can result in a compromise being reached.

“A sympathetic yet pragmatic approach is required to enable disputes to be resolved or concluded with minimal risk of further upset and distress to the parties. Anyone wanting more information on how to deal with these situations should contact their legal advisor.”

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