Defending a will

A short guide to the law for beneficiaries, executors and administrators who wish to defend a will.

When a will is challenged it impacts on the people who would benefit under that will, the ‘beneficiaries’, and on those who are responsible for administering the estate, the ‘executors’ or ‘administrators’.

Defending a will can be both stressful and expensive, which is why it is important to appoint specialist lawyers who are experienced in representing beneficiaries and executors. Here is a guide we have put together which covers the main legal issues that arise in these cases. If you require further help then you can call our legal helpline for a free case assessment.

Types of will claims

Will claims can take many forms. Each type of claim is different, with its own set of complex legal principles and procedures.

We have broad experience of defending a will in the following circumstances:

Inheritance Act claims

Where a claim has been made under the Inheritance Act 1975 for financial provision from the estate. Inheritance Act claims are often made by spouses, partners, children and other dependants who feel that a will has failed to provide them with adequate financial provision.

Invalid will challenges

Challenges to the validity of a will. There are various grounds to argue that a will is invalid. The most common include allegations that the person who made the will didn’t have mental capacity or was subject to undue influence.

Beneficial interest claims

This includes cases where someone feels they are legally entitled to property belonging to the estate. They may for instance have been promised that a property will be passed to them.

Rectification claims

Where a will contains an error the court can be asked to correct or rectify it.

Dealing with a caveat

To assist you in defending a will we shall need to see any correspondence that has been submitted by the claimant setting out the basis of their case. Claimants contesting a will often issue what is known as a 'caveat' to prevent the estate from being administered. Caveats are often incorrectly used. They should not be issued for instance where the claim is being made under the Inheritance Act. People also use caveats simply to hold matters up where there is no real evidence to support a legal challenge to a will. You can read here about a case we dealt with where a caveat was entered without sufficient justification and the claimants refused to remove it. We therefore made an application to the court which ultimately forced the claimants to discontinue their claim. They were also ordered by the court to pay our client’s legal costs.

The cost of defending a will

When defending a will we will provide you with an estimate of the legal costs that are likely to be involved in any particular course of action. Where appropriate we can advise you on having a will dispute referred to mediation rather than proceeding to a contested trial as this is often a much cheaper option.

No win, no fee is not usually appropriate for defending a will, but we are always happy to consider this on a case by case basis. We are however often happy to work on a 'deferred fee' basis. This means that you do not have to pay the costs of defending a will as the case progresses. Instead, we defer payment of our fees until the claim is resolved and funds within the estate are available for distribution.

Free legal helpline

If you need a lawyer who is experienced in defending a will then call our free legal helpline. We will be happy to provide an initial assessment of the case and summarise the steps we can take to help you defend the challenge being made. Call us on 0808 139 1599 or send an email with brief details to info@inheritancedisputes.co.uk