If you are considering making an application to contest a will, it is important to make sure that you are legally allowed to raise a dispute.
One of the main criteria for deciding if a person is entitled to contest a will is whether or not they belong to one of six defined groups that are considered to have the legal right to challenge a will or probate process.
In this guide, we will outline these six groups, along with some of the complex rules that define each group.
Whether you are related by marriage or by blood will play a factor in determining your right to contest a will. Those family members that are related by blood are listed under the Inheritance Act, with a specific list that names relatives that can make a claim for declaring a will invalid. Even if you are not a blood relative, your relationship with the deceased will be taken into account, and you do have legal protection in those cases as well.
Beneficiaries of the will
If you are named as a beneficiary in a will, then you are legally entitled to inherit what has been outlined in the will. If the executors of the will do not then pay you the sum the deceased had left to you or hand over any items the deceased had left to you in the will, then you can make a claim to ensure you receive exactly what had been left to you as, by not executing the deceased’s wishes as laid out in the will, it would be the case that the executor would be considered to have acted unreasonably in their legal duties.
Furthermore, as a named beneficiary, you can also dispute the division of the rest of the will too if you consider the division of the deceased’s estate to be unreasonable. It is worth remembering that, when considering a will, the ‘estate’ is not just property, but also entails all of the deceased’s possessions, any cash holdings, the contents of any savings accounts or investments and any land they may have owned. Therefore, if you were in business with the deceased as equal partners, and the other business partners were left a greater share of the business than you were, then you may feel that this is unfair and want to contest this.
Beneficiaries of earlier wills
As new people come into their lives, people do change their wills and will add these new people in. As a result, people who had previously been named in a will may be removed. For example, if a person gets divorced and then remarried, it is understandable that they would remove their ex-spouse from their will and replace them with their new spouse.
The law states though that, if you were named in an earlier version of a will but have then been removed from the most recent version, you may still be able to dispute the will if you can prove that there is a valid reason why you should still be named as a beneficiary. For example, if your ex-spouse had been paying you child maintenance to support the child(ren) you had together, but then died, leaving you nothing in the will to help with the continued upbringing of your child(ren), then it would be understandable that would want to contest their will. With this example, it should be said that any money or other part of their estate your ex-spouse leaves to your child(ren) belongs to them and would, most likely, be put in trust for them until they reach adulthood. This money is not for you to use to raise them. You would need to make a separate application for the will to provide continued child maintenance payments.
In addition, this group could at times raise a dispute that causes a criminal investigation ot begin if it can be shown that they have been taken out of a will due to fraud or a person wielding undue influence on the deceased when they were not in a fit state to be making decisions about amendments to their will.
If you are someone that is owed money by the deceased, be this as an individual or as part of a business, you may be able to claim this debt from the deceased’s estate. If you fall into this group, you should first try to have what is known as a Section 27 notice issued, as this can be provided to help those who are owed money by a person who has passed away.
If you were relying on an inheritance for your future and it was promised to you by the deceased, you may be able to challenge that person’s will if you are then not provided for. You should know that this can be a complex area to dispute though. Therefore, if you fall into this group, seeking legal advice as early as possible is highly recommended, as you will need to prove that the promise was made, and that you are suffering as a result of the promise being broken.
Even if you are not related to the deceased, you may be able to to make a claim to their part of their estate if it can be shown that you were financially dependent upon the deceased, whether this was monetary or in the form of accommodation. This group is protected under the Inheritance Act, so you will normally need to make this claim within six months of the probate date.
How we can help
If you fall under any of these categories, there is a chance that you may be able to successfully contest a will.
However, it is essential that you take appropriate advice before attempting to challenge the will or dispute how an estate has been distributed to make sure that your claim is being made within legal time limits and that you are legally entitled to make a claim.
This is where The Inheritance Experts come in. Following your free, no-obligation discussion with us, we will transfer you to a specialist solicitor that is best placed to challenge the will or probate process on your behalf given the circumstances of your claim and help you to get the share of the estate that you are entitled to.