Contesting the validity of a will
Invalid wills are becoming increasingly common. You can dispute the validity of a will on a number of grounds, including the following:
For a will to be valid and beyond dispute, the person making the will must have what lawyers call testamentary capacity. In other words they must have sufficient mental competence to make a will. The phrase “sound mind, memory and understanding” is often used. Mental incapacity can arise as a result of mental disability, but just because someone is unwell does not necessarily mean they lack testamentary capacity. Ascertaining whether a person has testamentary capacity can be a difficult exercise and must be carried out in accordance with an established test. It is usual for a will dispute based on allegations of lack of mental capacity to require the involvement of a medical practitioner. The courts will also consider non-medical evidence, including relationships with family and friends and the contents of previous wills. If it can be proved that the maker of the will did not have testamentary capacity then the will is likely to be declared invalid.
If you are involved in an invalid will dispute on the grounds of mental capacity and would like us to provide you with a free case assessment then contact us now
Another common reason for a will to be invalid is undue influence. A person must be free to make their will voluntarily. If someone is compelled or coerced into signing a will then it could be ruled invalid. Lawyers refer to such force as ‘undue influence’. Challenging a will on the basis of undue influence can be difficult and clear evidence of the undue influence is required.
For a FREE case assessment of your invalid will dispute contact us now.
Many invalid wills arise as a result of procedural validity. For a will to be valid it must be made in accordance with section 9 of the Wills Act 1837. If these requirements are not followed then the will could be invalid. For instance, a will should be in writing and must be signed and witnessed correctly by two independent witnesses. Invalid wills often arise when they are homemade. The growth of cheap internet wills is also leading to an increase in the number of invalid wills.
If you wish to challenge the validity of a will on the basis of procedural irregularity then contact us for further details.
Lack of knowledge and approval
Some invalid wills revolve around whether or not the testator ‘knew and approved’ the contents of the disputed will. Generally, this will be presumed if the will is properly executed and the maker had mental capacity. However, invalid will disputes can arise where a beneficiary has been involved in its preparation and there is a real concern that the person who made the will may not have had the requisite ‘knowledge and approval’ of the will they executed.
For a free assessment of your invlaid wills claim contact our specialist team.
Fraud and forgery
If someone is tricked into signing a will or the will is forged then it will not be valid. Although fraud and forgery isn’t widespread, it is not uncommon and a steady stream of cases make their way before the courts each year. This type of will dispute can take many different and often bizarre forms. There have even been cases of impersonation, where people visit an unwitting solicitor and pose as the testator. Executors therefore have to be vigilant and if fraud or forgery is suspected, solicitors specialising in disputed Wills should be instructed to investigate immediately. Fraud also includes the specific allegation of faudulent calumny, which is where the testator’s mind has been deliberately poisoned against a natural beneficiary.
Call our Will dispute helpline if you are concerned about fraud or forgery.
The dangers of delay
While the strict time limits of Inheritance Act claims do not apply to an invalid will, it is still important to avoid delay. In practical terms it is advisable to make the challenge before a grant of probate has been issued. If the challenge to the validity of a will is delayed then there is a real risk that the estate assets will be distributed, making it difficult for money to be recovered, even if the challenge succeeds. The case of Julie Spalding’s will and the actions of her window cleaner illustate the problems that can be encountered.
How we can help with invalid wills cases
If you wish to dispute an invalid will or oppose a challenge to a will then call our free helpline on 0808 139 1599 or email us at [email protected]
We operate a free legal helpline and will provide you with an initial case assessment.
For a set fee we can carry out preliminary investigations on your behalf to establish whether your challenge is likely to succeed. This may include obtaining the will preparation file from the solicitors who prepared the will or asking them to provide a Larke v Nugus statement, explaining the background circumstances and the instructions they received.
We are often able to deal with invalid will cases on a no win, no fee basis and are happy to consider any suitable claim where sufficient evidence exists to support it.