Contesting a will and inheritance disputes: what you need to know

Dealing with the death of a family member is always very difficult, both emotionally and practically, especially if you are the one who has to make all the arrangements. Issues and wills can often add a great deal of stress to the situation especially when you or someone you care for was not properly provided for in the will or the will is being challenged by someone else.

Inheritance disputes can be very distressing and hard to deal with, and when they happen, most people find that they need specialist legal assistance in order to resolve any issues. Below, we have highlighted some of the basic facts about inheritance disputes that you should know.

What is an inheritance dispute?

An inheritance dispute may be raised by someone who is either related to the deceased, a dependent of the deceased or an individual that has been maintained financially by the deceased.  If the person raising the dispute discovers that they have not been made provision for in the will, or if they have been made provision for but feel that the provision it is not fair or adequate, then that person can make a legal claim against the estate through the court. 

Who can make a claim?

Typically people making a claim against a will fall into the following categories:

  • Husband, wife, or civil partner of the deceased
  • A previous husband, wife or civil partner who is still single
  • Someone who has lived as a partner with the deceased for a minimum of two years
  • Children of the deceased
  • People who have been treated as if they were children of the deceased
  • Anyone who was financially supported by the deceased.

I am not a relative so can I still contest the will?

Subject to the items above, you can still contest the will even if the deceased is not a relative. You may have to prove that you were either financially dependent on the deceased or their partner, or prove that you had been given the same rights as the legal children of the deceased.

There wasn’t a will. Can I still claim against the estate?

Yes, it is still possible to claim against the estate even when the deceased died without making a will. It depends very much on specific circumstances, and in this case you should get advice from a specialist dispute solicitor.  

How much am I able to claim?

Again this depends very much on individual situations and history. You will need to be able to prove that what you have been left in the will is inadequate to meet your needs or were of deserving more than what was allowed for you. Many of these factors are specified in the Inheritance Act and others will depend on your personal circumstances. 

The Inheritance Act refers to 'reasonable' financial provision, what does that mean?

It depends on several factors. A spouse or civil partner could be entitled to half of the assets but that again depends on what the court considers to be fair. Account is also taken of the length of the marriage or civil partnership, the actual needs of the claimant, and any obligations and responsibilities that the deceased had for the claimant.

Is there a time restriction?

Yes, there is. You should contact a solicitor as soon as you realise that you have not been provided for. The time limit for making a claim has to be made within six months of the Grant of Probate; if there isn’t a will then a similar time period applies. The sooner you contest a will, the sooner the estate administration can be halted.

Will I have to go to court?

There is a possibility that you will have to go to court, but it is very unlikely. Most inheritance claims handled by specialist solicitors are settled out of court. Generally it is possible to reach a negotiated agreement with all of the parties involved, often with the help of a specialist independent mediator.

What is my next step?

If you believe that you have an inheritance dispute then it is essential that you talk to a solicitor as soon as possible. You can find your local QualitySolicitors branch here.

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