In this short article we look at what can be done if a loved one is coerced into making a will, or changing their previous will
We are often approached by people who believe that a family member or someone close to them has been coerced into making a will, or changing the terms of their previous will.
A will can be declared invalid if the person who made the will was unduly influenced, forced or coerced.
The starting point for these 'undue influence' claims is proving that the testator (the person who made the will) was coerced and acted against their own free will.
These can be difficult claims to prove and it is vital that you seek advice from lawyers specialising in contentious probate cases.
We are willing to assess potential claims free of charge. In order for us to offer useful guidance on the strength of an undue influence claim we will usually need to see the following:
- A copy of the file from the solicitors or will writers who drafted the will. The file should include a record of the testator’s instructions, an assessment of the testator's mental capacity and confirm if anyone else was present when the testator gave their instructions for the will to be prepared;
- A Larke v Nugus statement from the lawyer (or will writer) who drafted the will. An overview of what a Larke v Nugus statement is can be found here https://www.inheritancedisputes.co.uk/news-articles/what-larke-v-nugus-statement.html;
- Evidence from people who knew the testator and can comment upon their relationship with you and the beneficiaries specified in the disputed will. In particular, did they have any concerns that the testator was coerced or forced to act against their will? They should provide examples of their concerns and be asked to put this in writing whilst it remains fresh in their minds; and
- Confirmation that you would inherit under the earlier will or under the rules of intestacy in the event that the disputed will is declared invalid. There is little to be gained by launching a legal challenge on the basis that someone was coerced into making a will if you do not stand to benefit from a successful claim.
These are steps that you can take yourself before you consult us for an assessment. However, some people prefer to ask us to undertake preliminary investigations on their behalf. If this is of interest then we can work to an agreed budget to take some or all of the following steps:
- Obtaining the will prepartion file;
- Obtaining a Larke v Nugus statement; and
- Obtaining witness statements.
Our fees are based on the amount of investigatory work we have to undertake, but the starting point is usually £350 plus VAT. Once the investigations have been carried out and we have the evidence to assess the merits of the undue influence claim then we will be happy to consider whether the claim is suitable for no win, no fee funding.
For further guidance on what can be done if someone is coerced into making a will or to discuss a budget for investigatory work call us on 0808 139 1599 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org