Will was made under pressure
The challenge to the Will might be because the person was pressurised into making the Will against their free will. The legal term is “undue influence”.
This can happen when a Will is made by someone when there are suspicions about the motives of someone who had recently got close to them. This is especially the case where that person seemed to have been exerting a lot of influence over them and they then benefited more than expected under the Will.
However, the law does not automatically assume foul play just because someone received gifts under the Will whilst being in a position of trust and having the opportunity to manipulate. Evidence is very important.
If the person making the Will had professional help in preparing their Will, then a good lawyer will always be alert to someone being put under pressure. Where they have concerns they will try to take instructions for the Will without anyone else present. They will also explain the consequences of the Will to make sure the person fully understands what they are doing. This is especially important if the Will leaves out family members or is very different to an earlier Will.
However if the Will was not made with professional help these safeguards may not have been in place.
Will declared to be invalid
If the Will is found to have been made under undue influence it will be declared to be invalid. Then it will not be followed. This means that either:
- The person’s previous Will (that was valid when it was made) will apply, even if that previous Will was made a long time ago,
- Where there was no previous Will, then the law will follow the rules that apply where someone dies without a Will (even though these may not be that relevant to the person’s circumstances). These are known as the Intestacy Rules.
The key to successfully challenging or defending a Will is evidence. This can be witness statements from people who saw pressure being exerted. It may be letters or emails where the person expresses concern over being put under pressure or says what he or she plans to do in their Will. It might also be independent records – such as those of any professional adviser who helped prepare the Will.
In most cases you will need to act quickly to stop the property, possessions and money of the person who died being distributed under the terms of the Will you consider to be made under pressure. Once they have been distributed (as part of the administration of their estate) it can be far harder to get them back.
Our Free Initial Assessment service is available to help you find out from our expert lawyers if we can help you – whether you are able to make a claim to dispute a Will or if you need advice on defending a challenge to a Will made by someone else.
If it looks like we can help our £99 Ask the Legal Expert service can look at your particular circumstances on more detail. We can help you identify what evidence can be obtained and also whether it is necessary to also obtain any expert reports.