Contesting a will or inheritance

When someone you love and care about dies, the last thing on your mind is likely to be the financial implications. However these will often become very important. Not least to make sure the wishes are followed of the person who died. And so that you your inheritance does not end up in the wrong hands.
At QualitySolicitors, we understand that the emotional toll can be overwhelming, often overshadowing the practicalities that come with managing their affairs. Yet, attending to these matters is crucial to honouring the deceased's wishes and ensuring their legacy is preserved. Amidst the grieving process, it is essential to address financial implications promptly, safeguarding the assets and inheritance left behind.

QualitySolicitors have lawyers who specialise in this area of law who can help you whether you need to:

  1. contest or challenge a will, so you receive your proper inheritance, or
  2. make a claim where there is no Will or you have been left out, or
  3. defend a will or your right to inherit – if it is being challenged by someone else.

Disputes over inheritance can arise for various reasons, often causing emotional distress and financial strain for those involved. It is best to act as early as possible to ensure you are within the time limits for the type of inheritance claim that you have. At our firms, we empathise with individuals who find themselves in the midst of such challenging situations. Our experienced team of solicitors is dedicated to providing compassionate guidance and expert legal representation to navigate these complex matters effectively.

The Grounds for Contesting a Will

Contesting a Will is a complex legal process that can arise due to various grounds, each requiring careful consideration and legal expertise. In contesting a Will, typically, two main grounds are considered: either the Will is deemed invalid, or it fails to provide “reasonable financial provision” for a family member or someone who relied on financial support before the testator's death.

Below are the grounds on which you may potentially challenge the validity of a Will:

1. Lack of knowledge and approval

Lack of knowledge and approval is a legal principle that requires the testator to understand the contents of their Will fully. If evidence suggests that the testator did not fully comprehend the terms of the Will or was unaware of its contents, the Will may be contested on these grounds.

In such cases, it becomes imperative to thoroughly examine the circumstances surrounding the creation of the Will. This may involve investigating the testator's comprehension at the time of drafting the Will and scrutinising any factors that may have influenced their decision-making process.

2. Wills Act 1837

The Wills Act of 1837 sets out the legal requirements for creating a valid will in England and Wales. If a Will does not comply with the formalities specified in the Act, such as being signed and witnessed correctly, it may be deemed invalid and subject to contestation.

Compliance with the Wills Act ensures that the testator's intentions are accurately reflected in the document and that their wishes are upheld after their passing. This also helps to ensure that their Wills are executed in accordance with the law to avoid potential disputes in the future.

3. Undue influence or coercion

Undue influence or coercion is another ground for contesting a Will. This occurs when the testator is pressured or manipulated by someone else into making changes to their Will that they would not have otherwise made. Threats, deception, or other forms of undue pressure that undermine the testator's free Will and autonomy could also be involved.

Proving undue influence or coercion can be challenging, as it often relies on circumstantial evidence and witness testimonies. Legal professionals play a crucial role in gathering evidence and presenting arguments to establish that undue influence or coercion was indeed a factor in the creation of the Will.

4. Lack of testamentary capacity

One common reason for contesting a Will is the lack of testamentary capacity. This means that the testator, the person making the Will, did not have the mental capacity to understand the nature and consequences of their actions when creating the Will. This could be due to factors such as mental illness.

The lack of testamentary capacity can raise questions about the validity of the Will and the testator's intentions. It may require thorough examination and assessment by legal professionals to determine the extent of the testator's capacity at the time the Will was created. Such cases often involve complex legal proceedings and may require expert testimony from medical professionals to establish the testator's mental state.

5. Forgery and fraud

Forgery and fraud are serious offences that can invalidate a Will. If there is evidence to suggest that the signature on a Will was forged or that the testator was misled or deceived into signing it, the Will may be contested on grounds of forgery or fraud. 

Contesting a Will based on forgery or fraud requires thorough investigation and presentation of evidence to substantiate the claim. This often involves gathering witness testimonies, analysing handwriting samples, and scrutinising the circumstances surrounding the creation and signing of the Will.

Reasonable Financial Provision

One common issue in inheritance disputes is the question of reasonable financial provision for family members. Under the Inheritance Act 1975, certain family members have the right to claim against an estate if they believe they have not been adequately provided for in the deceased's Will. Our Wills solicitors are well-versed in this area of law and can help you understand your rights and options under the legislation.

The above grounds may involve complex legal matters that require thorough investigation and legal expertise to resolve effectively. 

At QualitySolicitors, our legal experts provide invaluable guidance, conduct thorough investigations, and advocate on your behalf to ensure your rights are protected and the matter is resolved fairly.

For example, our team of skilled solicitors can provide expert guidance and representation in cases where testamentary capacity is questioned. We understand the complexities of assessing mental capacity and have the experience to navigate these challenging legal matters effectively. Our solicitors work diligently to gather relevant evidence, such as medical records and witness testimonies, to support our clients' claims. Also, suppose a Will is being contested because of lack of knowledge and approval. In that case, our experts work closely with our clients to gather evidence, assess the validity of their claims, and develop a robust legal strategy tailored to their specific circumstances.

Choosing to challenge, not contest, a Will

When faced with concerns about the provisions outlined in a Will, individuals may explore avenues beyond traditional contestation. While the Will itself may adhere to legal standards, you may be able to challenge the Will legitimately. One such avenue is Proprietary Estoppel, a legal recourse available to those who believe assurances of inheritance, such as land or property, were made during the testator's lifetime but were unfulfilled in the Will. If such promises were not upheld, resulting in a disadvantage to the claimant, Proprietary Estoppel may offer a legitimate challenge.

Another aspect of challenging Wills pertains to the conduct or competency of appointed executors, trustees, or personal representatives. Even in cases where the Will's validity or content is not disputed, objections to the actions of these appointed individuals may warrant scrutiny.

Rectification and construction claims involve cases where a Will does not accurately reflect the testator's intentions due to clerical errors or misunderstandings by the person drafting it, rectification may be sought. This is typically the initial step before pursuing a claim for professional negligence when a Will is negligently prepared. Our services include guidance on addressing negligently drafted Wills, seeking rectification of Wills, and resolving disputes over the interpretation of Wills.

In addition to these avenues, other grounds exist for challenging a Will:

  • Instances where the original Will is misplaced or lost
  • Where the Will has been destroyed

Navigating these challenges requires careful consideration of legal avenues and potential repercussions. Individuals seeking to challenge provisions within a Will must weigh the merits of their claims against legal standards and precedents. Additionally, they must prepare to navigate legal proceedings, which may involve mediation or litigation to resolve disputes.

Ultimately, challenging provisions within a Will is a complex legal process that demands meticulous preparation and legal expertise. By understanding the available avenues and enlisting the guidance of experienced legal professionals, you can pursue your claims with clarity and confidence.

Rules of Intestacy

The rules of intestacy govern the distribution of a person's estate when they pass away without a valid Will. In such cases, the estate is distributed according to a predetermined legal framework rather than the deceased's wishes. These rules vary depending on the jurisdiction but typically prioritise close family members such as spouses, children, and parents.

In the UK, the rules of intestacy are outlined in the Administration of Estates Act 1925 and subsequent amendments. According to these rules, if the deceased was married or in a civil partnership, their spouse or partner typically inherits the majority of the estate. If there are children, the estate may be shared between the spouse/partner and the children.

If there is no surviving spouse or civil partner, the estate may pass to other family members, such as parents, siblings, or nieces and nephews, in a specific order outlined by law. If there are no surviving relatives, the estate may pass to the Crown or the government.

Creating a valid Will allows individuals to have control over the distribution of their assets and avoid the complexities of intestacy laws.

Grant of Probate and Probate Registry

In cases where there is a dispute over the validity of a Will or the distribution of assets, obtaining a grant of probate is a crucial step in the legal process. This legal document authorises the executor to administer the deceased's estate according to the terms of the Will. Our Wills and Probate solicitors can assist you in applying for probate and navigating the probate registry.

Can a Will be overturned after probate?

Yes, if you successfully demonstrate that the Will is invalid, it can be overturned post-probate. However, contesting a Will at this stage may be complicated, potentially resulting in substantial legal expenses if the court rules in favour of the executors. Also, delaying the process increases the likelihood that the deceased's assets Will have already been distributed.

Resolving Disputes Amicably

While inheritance disputes can be emotionally charged, our goal is to help you resolve them as amicably and efficiently as possible. We understand the importance of preserving family relationships and will work tirelessly to achieve a fair and equitable outcome for all parties involved.

Mediation serves as a valuable tool in resolving inheritance disputes amicably. With the assistance of a trained mediator, family members can engage in structured discussions aimed at finding compromises and reaching agreements. Mediation promotes cooperation, understanding, and compromise, enabling families to avoid the adversarial nature of litigation.

In addition to mediation, collaborative law approaches offer an alternative to traditional courtroom battles. Collaborative law involves each party retaining their legal representation committed to negotiating a settlement outside of court. This cooperative approach prioritises the interests of all parties and fosters a constructive atmosphere for resolving disputes.

Whether through negotiation, mediation, or litigation, we will advocate for your best interests every step of the way.

Importance of Legal Representation when Contesting a Will

We understand how upsetting it can be to challenge or face a challenge to a Will when already struggling from the loss of someone you loved.

However, if you are facing an inheritance dispute or need assistance in contesting a Will, don't hesitate to seek legal guidance. Legal representation plays a crucial role when contesting a Will in the UK, ensuring that you navigate the complex legal landscape effectively. Contesting a Will involves intricate procedures and requires a comprehensive understanding of inheritance laws and regulations. Legal representatives possess the expertise and experience necessary to guide individuals through each stage of the process, from initial assessment to courtroom proceedings.

One key benefit of legal representation is the ability to assess the validity of grounds for contesting a Will. Experienced Wills solicitors can evaluate the circumstances surrounding the Will's creation, identifying potential issues such as lack of testamentary capacity, undue influence, or improper execution. Legal representatives can formulate a strategic approach tailored to the specific case by thoroughly examining these factors.

Our solicitors at QualitySolicitors provide invaluable expertise, advocacy, and support, ensuring our clients receive fair treatment and justice in inheritance disputes. They act as intermediaries between clients and other parties involved, including executors, beneficiaries, and the court. They will advocate for your interests and provide support throughout the dispute resolution process. Our solicitors can also facilitate alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation or negotiation, seeking amicable solutions outside of court whenever possible.

With Will disputes and family inheritance disputes, it is important to act quickly. Our Free Initial Assessment service enables you to have a confidential telephone conversation from a specialist to see if you have a situation where they can help. If you do, the next step is often a face-to-face meeting to go through the details and plan your next steps. This is provided by our £99 Ask the Legal Expert service. Call us now on08082747557 or use our reply form to receive your Free Initial Assessment.



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