Contesting a Will
While most Wills are executed in a timely and efficient manner, it’s important to know that there are several grounds under UK law for contesting a Will. Whether you’re the person writing a Will (the testator) or someone named in a Will (the beneficiary) you need to be aware of the possibility of the Will itself being contested by a third party.
Grounds for contesting a Will
There are a number of recognised grounds for contesting a Will. For a claim to have any chance of success, the claimant needs to prove that one or more of the following conditions are true:
Lack of testamentary capacity: for a Will to be legally binding, the testator must know what they are signing and the consequences of doing so. They must understand the size of their Estate, be aware of all potential beneficiaries – whether or not they choose to include them – and so on. If a claimant believes the Testator was not in a position to understand the legal implications of the Will at the time they made it, they may have grounds for contesting.
Undue influence: does the claimant believe that the testator was persuaded or coerced into making the Will, naming a particular beneficiary or leaving out another? If so, a claim against the Will can be made, provided the claimant can prove it.
Legitimacy of the Will: this is related to testamentary capacity, but tends to cover the physical act of making or signing the Will, rather than the testators ability to understand the concept. For instance, if the testator is blind or illiterate, or if the Will was written in a language the testator didn’t understand, an argument can be made that they did not know what they were signing.
Missing Will: if there is no Will, the rules of intestacy are applied to divide up the testators estate. These rules tend to overlook cohabiting couples, unless they were married or in a civil partnership. However, the partner in such a relationship is still allowed to make a claim against the deceased’s estate, even if there is no Will present.
Fraudulent Wills: if you believe a Will is fraudulent you have a right to make a claim against it. This can include missing pages of the Will, the signature not matching that of the testator, a change in the margins or the font, to indicate pages have been replaced after the signing, and so on.
Professional Neglect: if the claimant believes that the testator received incorrect or inadequate legal advice from whomever drafted the Will for them, they can put in a claim for professional neglect. While this is a serious matter, proving or disproving the advice provided to the testator can be difficult.
Beneficiaries: Perhaps the most common ground for contesting a Will is from people who believe they should have been included in it as a beneficiary, or that other beneficiaries have no right to be included. Claimants need to prove a reasonable expectation that they belong in the Will – either through a relationship with the deceased or evidence of a promise made by them.
If a beneficiary that was financially dependent upon the deceased during their life feels they haven’t been sufficiently provided for in the Will, they may be able to make a claim under The Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975.
Here at Paradigm Wills and Legal Services, we are able to assist you in contentious probate and you will be sure to have the best team supporting you. We assist clients in Leicester, London, and beyond, whichever side of the process they fall under. For more information or to arrange a consultation, give us a call today on 0800 999 7750.