The rules regarding who can contest a Will and contested probate claims are quite complex. These rules also arise in often very stressful and traumatic situations. Many people are often surprised by what is left behind by their loved ones, and also frustrated and hurt by their final wishes. This can make Wills and probate claims more challenging as emotions are running high. However, our understanding and dedicated Wills and Probate Solicitors look to make the process as simple and stress-free as possible. We will always act in your best interests and can help you with your contested Will or probate claim. Contact us today, to find out what Lewis Nedas can do for you.
Who can contest a Will?
There are a number of people who may be entitled to contest a Will. The most common types of contested Wills cases we see are:
- Bloodline relatives – Most Wills are contested by family members. These types of claimants will seek to have the Will overturned and argue that the rules of intestacy should apply to the deceased’s estate. However, this is unlikely to occur where there is an earlier Will. Under the law in this area, being a bloodline family member is very important. The law specifically lists those who are entitled to make a claim under the laws of intestacy, for example, the child or spouse of the deceased.
- A financial dependent of the deceased – If you or another was financially dependent on the deceased, you might be able to contest their Will. The law makes provision for those who have been “maintained by the deceased” to make a claim on the deceased’s estate. This may include those who the deceased provided accommodation for or whom they helped financially.
- A beneficiary under the Will – If you are a beneficiary named in the Will of the deceased, but have not yet received your inheritance as a result of the failure of the executries, you may be able to make a claim against the estate. If the executor is acting unreasonably and is failing to correctly distribute the estate, you may have a claim against them.
Grounds for contesting a Will
There are a range of grounds for contesting the validity of a Will, these include:
- Reasonable financial provision for family and dependents: Under the Inheritance Act 1975, a Will that does not make sufficient or appropriate provision for family or dependants can be contested. The persons who are eligible to claim on these grounds are: (1) spouses and civil partners; (2) former spouses and civil partners who have not remarried; (3) cohabitants with the deceased for at least two years; (4) a child of the deceased; and (5) an otherwise dependant of the deceased. Claims based on these grounds must be made within six months from Grant of Probate. When considering whether financial provision should be made against the terms of the Will, a court will consider the financial needs of the claimants, what relationship the claimant had to the deceased and the size of the estate. Case law suggests that an independent adult who was simply “worse off” due to lack of inheritance is not sufficient to qualify for financial provision.
- Procedural invalidity: That one of the formal legal requirements for validity has not been fulfilled. These include: (1) lack of mental capacity; (2) fraud; (3) undue influence; and (4) improper signature or witnessing. On these grounds, there is no time limit for bringing a claim. The burden of proof for alleging undue influence rests upon the claimant. This is a high bar to meet, as it involves proving no other feasible explanation exists other than undue influence.
- Promissory estoppel: A claim that the deceased made a promise during their life that another relied upon to their detriment. The burden of proof here rests on the claimant to show the deceased intended to confer a benefit.
- Debt or liability: A creditor can make a claim against the deceased’s estate. The executor will post a Section 27 Notice in the London Gazette, affording a two-month period for creditors to lodge their claims.
- Estate administration claims: These types of claims arise where you believe the executor is not handling the estate in the best interests of the beneficiaries. It is the role of the executor to in gather all of the assets of the estate and sell property where required. If for example, the executor sells a property for much less than it is worth, you may be able to contest this.
Contact our Wills and Probate Solicitors London
Contesting a Will can be difficult, it can also be difficult to have a Will upheld when you stand to benefit. However, we can help you through this challenging time and build your case. Our specialist Wills and Probate Solicitors have handled a great number of contested Wills cases in the past, and we fully understand the complexities of these kinds of cases. We pride ourselves on our exceptional customer service and want you to feel at ease with how your case is progressing. We fully understand how stressful it can be to lose a loved one and that Wills disputes can cause further discord in your family. That is why we aim to settle Wills disputes quickly and professionally.