It is estimated that fewer than half of adults in the UK have drawn up a Will, leaving formal instructions for what should happen to their positions on their death. However, even when a valid Will is in place, disputes are commonplace and over the last few years, many more people are challenging the contents of a Will.
When this happens, the legal process in dealing with these disputes is typically known as ‘contentious probate’. This article highlights a few frequently asked questions regarding contentious probate and contesting a Will.
Who can challenge a Will?
Anyone who has an interest in the estate of a deceased person can challenge a Will. This includes family members, beneficiaries, and anyone who was promised something by the deceased. Challenging a Will can be expensive, time-consuming and distressing for everyone involved, so ensuring you have a valid claim before proceeding with any claim is wise.
Furthermore, it is crucial to have a valid legal reason for challenging a Will. Find out more about this below.
What are the grounds for contesting a Will?
It is crucial to have valid legal grounds for contesting a Will, and the decision should not be made lightly. However, if you have concerns about the contents of a Will or the distribution of an estate, the common reasons to challenge a Will include the following:
- Lack of testamentary capacity – When the individual did not possess sufficient mental capacity at the time, they executed the Will.
- Lack of proper execution – If a Will is drawn up without adhering to the proper legal requirements or formalities.
- Lack of knowledge and approval – If the person making the Will was unaware of its contents.
- Undue influence – Where someone was manipulated or pressured to write a Will or change the contents of an existing one.
- Fraud or forgery – If someone creates a fake Will in someone else’s name, forges their signature, or uses false information about another beneficiary to exclude them from the Will.
- Rectification – If there has been an error in drafting the Will, such as a mistake in recording the testator’s wishes.
It is vital to seek legal advice from a qualified solicitor with experience in contentious probate cases before contesting a Will. At Langley Wellington, we have specialist contentious probate solicitors who can provide you with expert guidance and support throughout the process. Please call 01452 521286 (Gloucester), 01242 269998 (Cheltenham) or visit our website to learn more about our Wills and Estate Planning services.
How much time do I have to contest a Will?
The time limit for contesting a Will is typically within six months from the date probate was granted. However, there are some exceptions to this rule, and the time limit can vary depending on the case’s specific circumstances.
Seeking legal advice from a contentious probate specialist as soon as possible if you are considering contesting a Will is essential. They can advise you on the relevant time limits and help you take the necessary steps to protect your interests.
What happens if a Will is found to be invalid?
If a Will is found to be invalid, the estate will be distributed according to the terms of the previous valid Will, or if there is no previous valid Will, the rules of intestacy will apply. Intestacy rules are a set of legal guidelines that determine how the estate of a deceased person should be distributed if they died without leaving a valid Will. The rules of intestacy vary depending on the jurisdiction of the country where the deceased person resided at the time of their death, but they typically prioritise family members in the distribution of assets.
It is important to note that although the rules of intestacy prioritise family members, this does not consider the cohabitee of the deceased. Find out the importance of creating a cohabitation agreement to protect you and your partner here.
Contentious Probate Solicitors
Contesting a Will can be a complex and lengthy process, and it is crucial to seek legal advice from an experienced contentious probate solicitor before taking any action.
This blog post is not intended to be taken as advice or acted upon. If you are seeking legal advice, please get in touch with our team of solicitors.