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Contesting A Will FAQ

Who can contest a will?

Anyone who is likely to benefit from an earlier will or on intestacy (where there is no earlier will) is able to contest a will. Otherwise if you were meant to benefit under a will but due to an error by the professional preparing the will, you did not, you may be able to make a professional negligence claim against the professional adviser.

If property is given away in a will, which was either gifted or promised to you during that person’s lifetime, you may also be able to claim for this as well.

On what grounds can I contest a will?

It may be possible to challenge a will on one or more of the following grounds: lack of “testamentary capacity”; lack of valid execution; lack of knowledge and approval; undue influence; fraud or forgery; or rectification and construction claims.

What steps need to be taken?

Act soon so generally speed is of the essence. Time limits to contest a will depend on the specific circumstances of each case. However, in any dispute over a will, the sooner you act the better. Contesting a will is more difficult if probate has already been obtained and the estate has been administered though it is still possible.

Claims to rectify a will, or for reasonable financial provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, have a time limit of six months from the grant of probate or letters of administration. The court does have power to allow an extension, but only in exceptional circumstances.

What can one do at a practical level?

Ultimately the ability to challenge a will is dependent on a series of variables which focus on assessing the evidence?

1. What is in the will? Have formalities have been complied with. E.g is it handwritten or not? If a beneficiary handwrote the will then this will evidence that will raise suspicion. 

2. Is the Will  consistent? If a significant beneficiary handwrote the will the more likely it is to be attacked later. • How complex is the will? The more complicated it is the more likely that it can be attacked for lack of knowledge and approval particularly if there are doubts over the mental capacity of the testator

3. How was the will executed?

What about the signature? Does this match the testator’s signature on other documents? Was it shaky? Has the deceased made a previous will?

Is there anything else you and your lawyer could be thinking about?

Getting the will file if a solicitor has been instructed. This will include all the documents and also can If medical records suggest a loss of capacity, one can request a retrospective report.

Do I need a solicitor?

Generally you should get advice from a solicitor /legal advisor due to the legal issues being so complex and the ability to focus on what is required..