A legal guide to contesting a will
As experts in inheritance disputes we are often asked, ‘Can I contest a will?’ We have therefore prepared this summary of the key legal principles that apply when someone wants to contest a will. For further information about contesting a will call our free legal helpline on 0333 888 0407 or send us an email.
When someone says they want to ‘contest a will’ they normally mean that they think a will is invalid. There are various grounds for contesting the validity of a will. Perhaps the most popular ground is that the person who made the will did not have mental capacity. Other grounds include what lawyers refer to as ‘undue influence’ and a failure to follow the strict rules governing the preparation and execution of a will. Fraud is another ground for having a will declared invalid.
If a will is invalid then its provisions will not be followed. Instead the estate will be distributed in accordance with the terms of any previous will. If no earlier will exists then the intestacy rules will apply.
So when someone wants to challenge the validity of a will we have to consider not only the evidence available to prove that the will is invalid, but we also need to look at the position of the claimant themselves and whether they will benefit from a successful challenge being made. Do they stand to inherit under an earlier will or benefit under the rules of intestacy?
Sometimes the person wanting to contest a will accepts that the will itself has been validly made but feels the contents are unfair and fail to make adequate financial provision for them.
In these circumstances we can look at whether the Inheritance Act can help them. Under the Inheritance Act certain classes of people are entitled to make a claim against the estate of the deceased. This includes spouses, people who have lived together for at least 2 years, children and anyone who was being maintained by the deceased at the time of their death.
If an Inheritance Act claim is successful the will still remains valid, subject to the impact of the Inheritance award. The courts powers to change the terms of a will are far-reaching.
The cost of challenging a will is dependent upon what type of legal claim is being pursued and the legal merits of the case. Legal costs tend to be higher where the case is not straightforward and the claim is contested. In strong cases there is a much greater likelihood that the challenge will be conceded or an out of court settlement reached.
Where the legal merits of the case are good we are always willing to consider funding it on a No Win, No Fee basis.
So, if you are prompted to ask, ‘Can I contest a will?’ and would like to know where you stand then call our free legal helpline on 0333 888 0407 or email us at [email protected]