When a close family member passes away, you may be left with some legal responsibilities to handle. One of them is locating the Will and administering the estate according to the wishes written by the testator (person making the Will). In general, this process is relatively simple. Occasionally, families may find something particularly troublesome in a Will, and this is when a dispute will arise.
Some disputes occur when relatives have been written out of a Will due to personal disagreements or past disputes. Others occur when family members believe that they have been treated unfairly in the Will, haven’t been sufficiently provided for, or if they feel the Will doesn’t reflect the wishes of the testator.
Who can contest a Will?
In short, not everyone is eligible for the right to contest. It’s only possible to start a legal process to contest a Will if you had a specific relationship with the testator. Eligible relationships include family members, cohabiting partners, estranged children, people that relied on the testator for financial support during their life, or if you were mentioned in a current or previous Will. You will need to have a valid reason to make a claim. Otherwise, your claim will be rejected.
Valid reasons for challenging a Will:
- If you believe the Will is fraudulent
- If you believe that the Will was forced or written under duress
- If you believe that the Will is invalid
- If you believe that the writer no longer had the mental capacity to complete the Will
- Reasonable provision: Writer hasn’t adequately provided for an individual they are legally obliged to (a child, spouse or individual they were supporting financially)
It’s essential to make your claim as soon as possible and seek legal advice right away (usually within 6 months). While it is possible to contest a Will after probate is granted and the estate is distributed, you’ll encounter fewer problems along the way if you take action before this happens.
The first step in a Will dispute
A will dispute can become arduously long and stretched out in countless court processes, and it can cause you a lot of stress and money if not handled efficiently, especially if you lose the claim. When it’s not possible to resolve a dispute within a family, it is best to seek advice from a solicitor that handles contentious probate. Your solicitor will review the dispute with you and put together a solid case to take to court.
In most cases, disagreements between beneficiaries will go through mediation, where both parties come together and talk with an experienced legal mediator that will attempt to bring a satisfactory solution for everyone. Most cases tend to be resolved through this procedure, but if negotiations reach a deadlock, you will have to build and submit a formal court claim with your solicitor.
Contentious probate in civil court
While there no jury present in such cases, contentious probate are heard and can be solved in civil court. The judge will consider all evidence provided and then decide what they believe is the correct decision.
Possible outcomes from the decision of a judge:
- Remove an executor from a Will or appoint a new one completely
- Declare the validity of a Will even if there is an issue with its authenticity (Rectifying a Will)
- Declare the current Will invalid in favour of a previous one
- Decide to change terms of the Will entirely
- Declare the Will invalid and rule that the estate should be distributed based on the intestacy rules
If you’re in the process of contesting a Will or need advice from a professional, make sure to contact Paradigm Wills on 0116 464 7055 for a free, no-obligation quote. We are a team of experts who can assist you throughout your claim.