When thinking about whether to contest a will, there are a lot of things you need to be aware of if you are to be successful. This guide will outline the various things you will need to keep in mind.
Everything You Need to Know About Contesting a Will
Who can challenge a will?
It is first important to ensure that you have the legal right to contest the will. Though The Inheritance Act details who can and can’t contest a will, in short those who can legally challenge a will are:
- Direct family members, like children or grandchildren
- A spouse, regardless of whether they were separated from or still with the deceased at the time of their death
- A beneficiary who was named in a previous will
- A person who relied on the deceased financially
- A creditor the deceased owed money to
- A person who was promised an item by the deceased, but this was not included in the will
That being said, if anyone believes the will is not legally valid, they have the right to challenge it. Only those listed above, however, can challenge how the estate is split up.
On this point, the ‘estate’ is not simply any property owned by the deceased. It also includes the deceased’s possessions, the contents of their bank, building society and savings accounts, any investments (ISAs, premium bonds, etc) and any land they may have owned.
What are the grounds for contesting a will?
What happens when a will is contested is that probate is halted. This means that you have time to prove either the will is invalid, or that you have a bigger claim that outlined. Valid reasons to contest the will include:
- The deceased was not in their right mind when they signed the last will or were unaware of what they were signing.
- The will was drawn up incorrectly or was not signed with valid co-signing witnesses present.
- The signature(s) was/were forged, which can be proven with a handwriting expert.
- The beneficiaries have a right to the estate but have either not been named or have not been adequately cared for in the will.
It is best to avoid a so-called ‘DIY will’. Under no circumstances should you have someone you want to name as a beneficiary help you to draw up your will either, as that would lead to suspicions that you have been coerced or pressured into naming them as a beneficiary or giving them a great share of your estate than they are entitled to.
Instead, you should hire The Inheritance Experts’ writing service.
Do solicitors keep copies of wills?
Yes. In fact, it is best to use a professional will storage service to ensure that the document is protected and preserved.
Is there a time limit to contest a will?
Generally speaking, you have up until an executor has been granted probate and has begun to distribute the deceased’s assets based on their Final Will and Testament.
It can be very difficult contesting a will after distribution, though it is possible to make a claim after probate. Ideally, you want to make your claim as soon as possible. There are exemptions to this – in the case of fraud, for example, where there is no limit – but, by making the claim at the earliest opportunity, you can increase the chances of successfully contesting a will.
How long does contesting a will take?
Contesting a will takes a long time, especially as the best way to resolve this issue is through mediation. If mediation does not work, the case would have to be brought to court where it can take anywhere from a few months to a few years to complete.
This issue is complicated if, say, a beneficiary dies before the testator. In this case, their inheritance becomes part of their own estate. This would mean, in order to contest their claim, you would need to block two wills.
How much does it cost to contest a will?
If you are wondering who pays to contest a will, the answer is those who are either prepared to pay a substantial sum in legal fees or those who use our No Win, No Fee agreement. Costs can go up as high as £100,000 when all is said and done, which is why mediation and fast resolution is ideal for all parties.
Can wills be contested on behalf of someone else?
The chances of contesting a will successfully don’t go away if you are contesting on the behalf of someone else. These people should either be minors or those unable to contest themselves.
Can a will be contested after probate?
Yes. Probate court is there to prove the validity of the will, not necessarily the claims of the beneficiaries. Similarly, if fraud is suspected the validity of the will can be brought into question.
Can I contest a will if I am an executor?
You can contest a trust or will if you are the executor, as executors can be named beneficiaries in the will. If you do, however, you will need to do it within six months of probate being granted and, ideally, before you take on any of the duties expected of you. Instead, you will want to renounce your role as executor as this can be seen as a conflict of interest.
How can I contest a will based on mental capacity?
One of the stronger cases for contesting a will is because there is strong evidence that the deceased was not mentally well at the time the last will was made. If they were suffering from dementia, for example, a case can be made that the last will is not valid. In this case, the previous Last Will and Testament would be used instead.
I am an executor of a will that is being contested. What should I do?
The role of the executor is to divide the estate as per the deceased’s wishes. You do not need to do this alone. You can and should hire a legal advisor to help you accurately manage this process, especially if one of the beneficiaries contests the will or if there are confusing assets, such as a joint bank account.
Will I have to go to court if I contest a will?
Though the goal is to settle the matter out of court, that is not always the outcome. The solicitors we work with are experienced at working to settle these matters without the need to go to court, but are more than capable of progressing matters if court proceedings are needed.
What are the steps to contesting a will?
There are a few parameters you must meet before you contest a will:
- You have the legal right to contest the will
- You have a valid reason for contesting the will
- You have contested the will before the time limit
- Evidence must be collected that supports your claim
Once you have met these parameters you will want to contact inheritance specialists as soon as possible. This way the contest can ideally be made before probate. Probate means that the will was proved to be valid.
Your solicitor will work with you so that you understand all areas of the law, whether you are in England, or are contesting a will in Scotland, where the rules are slightly different. One of the first steps to doing this is to apply for a copy of the death certificate so that you can get the legal information like name and last permanent address from the deceased.
Your solicitor will work with you to build up a strong case in your favour. The process will then move to mediation, and, failing that, the courts.
Get in touch with one of our inheritance experts, so that we can help you build a solid case. We can even help if you are an executor who is managing an estate that has been contested and can similarly help understand Inheritance Tax and other financial affairs associated with the estate. Regardless of which side you are on when a will is contested, our services can help you fight for the fairest outcome.
To get started, contact us today
Further Reading: Changing A Will After Death
Our areas of specialism include
- Inheritance Act claims
- Contested Court of Protection
- Disputed Wills
- Estate disputes
- Burial disputes
- Disputes over the identification of beneficiaries
- Fraudulent Wills
- Challenging a Will
- Asset and property disputes
Why should you contact us?
Fixed Fee Lawyers
The specialist law firms we work with offer fixed fees for Wills, Probates & Lasting Power Of Attorney.
They cover all aspects of preparing wills and dealing with a person's assets after they have died.
The experienced solicitors we work with are experts at dealing with inheritance disputes effectively and efficiently.
They are committed to securing the best possible outcome for you, while providing friendly support every step of the way.
Personal Dedicated Solicitors
You will be allocated your own expert solicitor in England & Wales who will be there for you every step of the way.
An example of a successful claim involved siblings who were left orphaned when their father died, their mother having passed away some years earlier. The father left his estate in its entirety the older sibling, cutting the younger from his will entirely without explanation.
In the last year of his life, the father asked the younger sibling, who was single and had no dependents, to move back into the family home so the father would not have to move into sheltered accommodation. The younger sibling took a lower paying job closer to home and did as their father requested, reducing his own financial independence in the process. They successfully contested the will on the premise that their father had promised their financial and career sacrifice would be recognised in the distribution of assets when he passed away. The dispute was resolved through careful mediation which ensured the younger sibling received appropriate recognition without damaging the siblings’ relationship.