What you need to know about contesting a will

20079654 - last will and testament

It is a stressful and challenging time when a loved one passes away.

After a loved one passes away, family members are often left to handle any legal and financial paperwork while also finding time to grieve and organise funeral arrangements. So the last thing anyone would want is to see someone has been left out or to discover a will that does not truly reflect the final wishes of the deceased.

Contesting a Will happens more often than one would like to think. In 2019, one survey found that one in four people is ready to contest their parent’s Will if they are unhappy with it. If you would like to challenge a Will, or if you want to know where you stand when a relative chooses to contest a loved one’s Will, Romain Coleman is here to help. In this post, our Wills and Probate solicitors explain what you need to know about contesting a Will, including the requirements and process to expect.

What is a Will?

A Will is a legal document that states to whom and how your property will be distributed upon your death. It also outlines your wishes regarding the care of any minor children.

If you would like to know more about Wills before learning about contesting a Will, the following blogs can help you:

What are the common grounds for contesting a Will?

As aforementioned, concerns or disagreements may occur once the contents of a Will are known. As a result, a person may want to contest a Will – an act classified as Contentious Probate.

There are numerous reasons why a person may want to contest a Will. Some of these reasons include:

Lack of financial provision: People who are financially dependent on the deceased should be given adequate provision in the deceased’s Will. The Provision for Family and Dependants Act 1975, commonly known as the Inheritance Act, states that spouses or civil partners, children, as well as people who were being supported financially by the deceased could make a claim if they are now left without reasonable financial provision.

Undue influence: The person who wrote the Will may have been pressured, influenced into writing or changing their Will to suit the wants of the person influencing them. This could be the case if the Will favours one relative over everyone else, or if it favours an unrelated person who only became known to the deceased recently.

Lack of testamentary capacity: Testamentary capacity is the legal term used to describe the mental capacity and comprehension required by the testator (the person making the Will) to make or alter a Will. If the testator is found to have lacked testamentary capacity when the Will was executed, the Will could be deemed invalid.

Other reasons that can drive a person to challenge a Will include:

  • Unknown, missing or a lack of witnesses present when the Will was signed.
  • Family members don’t believe the contents of the Will are what their family member would have wanted
  • A solicitor was not involved in the creation of the Will

Who can challenge a Will?

Anyone has the right to contest a Will if they do not believe it is legally valid. However, only the following people can challenge a Will when it concerns making a claim under the Inheritance Act:

  • Immediate family members such as children or grandchildren
  • A spouse – they could be estranged or still together
  • A person financially dependent on the person who passed away
  • A beneficiary named in a previous Will
  • A person who was promised an item that was not included in the Will
  • A creditor who was owed money by the deceased

The time limit and process for contesting a Will

It’s crucial that you’re aware of how much time you have to challenge a Will. The set of guidelines changes depending on the type of claim you want to make; however, there are three main time limits to keep in mind:

  • Beneficiary claim against an estate – 12 years from the date of death
  • Claiming against an executor for appropriating assets – No limit
  • Inheritance Act claim – 6 months from the date of Grant of Probate

To know which kind of claim you can make and if you can make one, contact our Wills and Probate solicitors for sound legal advice.

The process of contesting a Will can be long and painful. Ideally, you should be able to challenge a Will through the use of mediation successfully. However, if mediation doesn’t work, the case will go to court, adding more time and effort to the process. At this point, it could take anywhere between a few months and a few years.

To begin the process, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Legal right to contest the Will
  • A valid reason to contest the Will
  • You must be within the time limit to contest the Will
  • Evidence that can support your claim

Once you have decided to contest a Will, it is important that you contact our solicitors immediately. It is easier to notify the Will’s executor of a claim before the distribution of any assets (before a Grant of Probate). While it is possible to contest a Will after Grant of Probate, there may be practical difficulties due to the distribution of the assets.

We understand how emotionally challenging and long the process can be, which is why our Wills and Probate solicitors will explore the process of mediation first. However, should the case go to court, we will work relentlessly to represent you and protect your interests.

How can our Wills and Probate solicitors help with contesting a Will?

If you would like to contest a Will of a recently passed loved one, contact our Wills and Probate experts for jargon-free legal advice and support. We understand that the passing of a loved one can be a stressful time for those left behind, which is why our solicitors are attentive and compassionate when we discuss the options available with you.

Our team will help you understand if you have reasonable grounds to contest a Will, explain the costs involved and support you every step of the way.

Give us a call on 0208 520 4555 or complete our Free Online Enquiry and we will respond as soon as possible.

For more information about Wills and Probate, visit the following blogs:

This post is not legal advice and should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances. It is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.