Can You Dispute a Will? Yes, and We’ll Show You How
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. It will ultimately answer the question: Can you dispute a will, plus other questions like:
- First, what, exactly, contesting a will costs?
- Second, exactly who can contest a will in England and Wales?
Everything You Need to Know About Contesting a Will
So we’re going to answer all questions making a few critical assumptions here.
- First, let’s assume the party who has made the will (i.e. testator the person)…well, made one.
- Next, the will is valid legally and not subject to intestacy law.
- Finally, let’s also conclude that the will has been given without a lack of testamentary capacity.*
Can you dispute a will?
Given this, it’s first important to ensure that you have the legal right to contest the will. In short, The Inheritance Act details who specifically can and cannot contest a will. Moreover, those who can legally challenge a will include the following.
- Direct family members, including children or grandchildren.
- A spouse.***
- A beneficiary (given that in the previous will, it has named them).
- A person who relied on the deceased financially.
- A creditor to whom the deceased owed money.
- A person who was promised an item by the deceased, but this was not included in the will.
In essence, being part of the family and friends will help.
In summary, here’s the critical thing to knowing ‘Can you dispute a will?’
- If anyone believes the will is not legally valid, it’s their 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 the leaver owns. It also includes other aspects.
- For instance, their possessions would be one bit of property in question.
- Also, the contents of their bank accounts, building society and/or savings accounts.
- Don’t forget about any investments (ISAs, premium bonds, etc)
- Finally, any land they are owning death.
‘Can you dispute a will’ depends on what grounds for contesting?
Firstly, what happens when contesting a will in England and Wales is that probate is halted. This means that you have time to prove either the will is invalid, or that your claim is actually larger. Valid reasons, or grounds for contesting the will, include those below.
- Notably, if the deceased was not in their right mind when they signed the last will.
- Along similar lines, they were unaware of what they were signing.
- Alternatively, the will was drawn up incorrectly or is completing without valid co-signing witnesses present.
- Forgery of the signature(s), which requires handwriting expert to prove.
- The beneficiaries have a right to the estate. Yet there is either no naming of them, or the caring for them is inadequate.
To be perfectly clear, we would always advise that it’s best to avoid a so-called ‘DIY will’. It’s risky and can help avoid contentious probate battles.
Additionally, under no circumstances should you have someone you want to name as a beneficiary help you to draw up your will. That would lead to suspicions that you have been unduly influenced. To meet those parameters, a fraudulent beneficiary may do one or both of the following.
- They coerce or pressure them into naming them as a beneficiary.
- Alternatively, undue pressure earns them a greater share of your estate than they deserve.
A losing party may result from this. We advise that in order to know if you can dispute a will, 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. This will protect and preserve the legal document.
Is there a time limit to contest a will?
Generally speaking, you have up until:
- They grant an executor and;
- The executor begins distributing assets according to their Final Will and Testament.
In turn, that brings us to the issue of legal costs. It can be very difficult regarding contesting a will costs after distribution occurs. However, it is possible to make a claim after probate. Ideally, to determine can you dispute a will after distribution, you need to make your claim as soon as possible.
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 and dispute resolution doesn’t work, the case may go before a court. Subsequently, it can take anywhere from a few months to a few years to complete.
This issue faces complications if, for instance, a beneficiary dies before the testator the person. 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.
What are the contesting a will costs?
This is the biggest element on knowing if you can dispute a will. The answer to who will pay the costs is two-fold.
- Firstly, those who are in a position to pay a substantial sum in legal fees.
- Alternatively, those who use our No Win, No Fee agreement.
Contesting a will costs may be as much as £100,000. Accordingly, this is why mediation and fast dispute resolution is ideal for all parties involved.
Can someone contest a will on behalf of someone else?
In short, yes: someone can definitely contest a will on behalf of another party. This is the case primarily when you’re contesting on behalf of either a minor or those who are simply unable to contest it themselves.
To avoid fraud, the parties acting as guardians cannot be exerting undue influence; i.e. the minor cannot be unduly influenced in the proceedings.
Can you contest a will after probate?
Yes. Probate court is there to prove the validity of the will, not necessarily the claims of the beneficiaries. Similarly, if benefits are shown to be procured by fraud or fraud is even under suspicion, 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 first need to take care of two critical things.
- Firstly, you need to do it within six months of the grant of probate.
- Second, ideally, you need to do it before you take on any of the duties expected of you.
In this situation, 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?
Herein lies one of the stronger cases for contesting a will. 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. Accordingly, one can make a case that the last will is invalid. In this case, the previous Last Will and Testament would be used instead.
I am an executor of a will someone is contesting. What should I do?
The role of the executor is to divide the estate as per the deceased’s wishes. To summarise, you don’t have to do this all by yourself. You can and should hire a legal advisor to help you accurately manage this process. That’s 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 and law firms we work with are the best at working to settle these matters without the need to go to court. However, they’re also more than capable of progressing matters if court proceedings become necessary.
What are the steps to contesting a will?
There are a few parameters you must meet before you contest a will:
- Firstly, you have the legal right to contest the will.
- Secondly, you have a valid reason for contesting the will.
- Third, you’ve made this contesting of the will before the time limit has run out.
- Finally, you must raise sufficient evidence that supports your claim.
Once you’ve met these parameters, you’ll want to contact inheritance specialists as soon as possible. This way the contest can ideally be made before probate. Probate, therefore, means that the will has been proven to be valid.
The role of your solicitor
Your solicitor will work with you so that you understand all areas of the law.
That’s true whether you are in England or Wales, 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 contesting a will in England or Wales, our services help you fight for the fairest outcome.
- To get seek legal advice in contesting a will or other estate planning matters, contact us today.
- Further Reading: Changing A Will After Death.
*Ergo, we can assume the person giving the will is of sound mind and body. This stems from the cases of Spiers v English 1907
**Please note that there are exceptions to this. In the case of fraud, for example, where there is no limit. However, by making the claim at the earliest opportunity, you can increase the chances of successfully contesting a will.
***This holds true, regardless of if they are separate from or still with them at the time of their death.