It is a very upsetting time when someone close to you dies. You need time to be able to grieve and seek the support of your family and friends at this difficult time.
Sometimes though, when the contents of a Will become known, there can be disagreements and upsets which may result in a dispute.
When a will is contested, or there is an inheritance dispute, it is classed as Contentious Probate. Perhaps you feel you have not been left enough, or you feel the will was written under influence. If you are contemplating challenging or contesting a will, you need to contact a specialist solicitor immediately. You may only have a short period of time to contest a will, and it is rarely a straightforward process as many people can be involved. If you miss the deadline for your particular claim, you potentially lose the right to bring a claim altogether.
To stop a grant of representation going ahead, you can lodge a caveat with the Probate Registry, which will last six months. A caveat gives you time to decide if you are going to dispute the will – and it gives you time to discuss your case with a solicitor. Although you can contest a will after a grant of probate has been issued, it is often easier to do it beforehand. However, it is best to seek advice from a specialist solicitor who can make sure you are taking the right steps, as mistakes can be costly.
One of the issues that can delay the process of probate is when there is a dispute between the executor of a will and the beneficiaries, or a dispute between several executors. Solicitors often help resolve these disputes, especially when they can help executors understand how to administer the estate correctly. These issues can usually be resolved informally without involving the Court.
The Court will have to get involved to revoke a grant in favour of one executor and issue a grant in favour of another, or appoint an independent third-party executor. An executor can also be replaced, although this is less common.
There are many reasons you may want to challenge a will, but the three main reasons are:
If you were financially dependent on the deceased, you should be given adequate provision in their will. The Provision for Family and Dependants Act 1975 – also known as the Inheritance Act – allow you to make a claim if the person who died did not provide ‘reasonable financial provision’ when it was their legal obligation to do so. The people who have the right to make a claim under this act include:
In some cases the person who made the will may not have fully understood what they were doing, for example if they had dementia. It can be difficult after the fact to prove lack of mental capacity, but if there are issues with the will, such as recent changes or unusual requests, it may be a starting point for investigation.
The person who made the will may have been influenced or pressured. If the will significantly favours one child or relative over everyone else, or if it favours an unrelated person who only became known to the deceased recently, it may be a cause for concern. Other concerns may arise if a solicitor was not included in the making of the will, or there were unknown witnesses.
How you challenge the will, and how much time you have, depends on the nature of your claim. For example, if you believe you can make a claim under the Inheritance Act 1975, you only have six months to do so after the grant of representation has been issued. However, even if the estate was finalised a long time ago, don’t automatically assume you’ve lost a claim – particularly if you think fraud was committed.
Knowing if you can contest probate is particularly challenging because the guidelines change depending on the type of claim. The main time limits to look out for are:
It’s worth remembering that in many cases the costs of bringing a claim against an estate will be paid out of that estate rather than your own pocket.
Whether you are thinking of making a claim to dispute a will, or someone is challenging a will in which you are named, you have a better chance of success with the help of a solicitor.
At Romain Coleman, we have years of expertise with wills and probate, and can help you understand the prospects of your claim being successful. We explain the process of probate and disputes in a clear way without legal jargon, and we will always carefully advise you about the costs involved. In many cases, when you bring or defend a claim against the estate of a deceased person, the cost is paid out of the estate – so you will not end up out of pocket. We also understand that this may be a trying time for you and your loved ones, and aim to handle every case with the sensitivity and support you deserve.
Our wills and probate team are here to help you, so call us now on 0208 520 4555 or complete our Free Online Enquiry form.