How do you contest a last will and testament?
While a last will and testament should reflect the deceased wishes, sometimes there are reasons why someone may believe that it does not. For example, they may believe that the will has been altered or forged, that it was written under undue influence, it was made under suspicious circumstances, or the will has not been validly executed. If you have lost a loved one and wish to contest their last will and testament, then keep on reading. Graysons’ team of wills and trusts solicitors in Sheffield and Chesterfield answer some of the most frequently asked questions about contesting a will.
What is contesting a will?
Contesting a will is a legal process in which you challenge the validity of the deceased’s last will and testament. The law in England upholds the importance of respecting the deceased wishes in their will, even if loved ones are surprised by its contents. However, there are grounds under which loved ones can challenge a will. Contesting a last will and testament is a complex process. It can also be an emotional and stressful experience and a time-consuming and expensive exercise. If you are contemplating contesting a will, you need an expert wills solicitor, such as Graysons’ team of Sheffield and Chesterfield lawyers to advise.
Who can contest a last will and testament?
The Inheritance Act details who can legally challenge a last will and testament. This includes direct family members, including children and grandchildren, a financial dependent, spouses, a creditor to whom the deceased owes money, and beneficiaries who were included in previous wills. If anyone believes that the deceased’s last will and testament is not legally valid, then they have a right to challenge it. If you wish to contest a will, then you should contact an experienced wills solicitor, such as Graysons’ team of wills and trusts attorneys.
What are the grounds for contesting a will in the UK?
You can contest a last will and testament if you believe that it does not reflect the wishes of the deceased or believe it may be invalid. Some common grounds for challenging a last will and testament include:
- Incomplete or inadequate execution – the will is not legally valid as it does not meet the necessary formalities, for example, it was not signed in the presence of two witnesses
- Undue coercion or influence – another person influenced the deceased when writing their will, or when making changes to their existing will, especially if their influence was used to their personal benefit
- Fraud – this may include believing that the will was written by someone else, including forging a signature, or making unauthorised changes
- Lack of testamentary capacity – you may be able to challenge a will if you believe the deceased did not have the mental capacity required to make their will. For example, if they were suffering from a condition that impacts their mental ability, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s.
- Lack of knowledge or approval – you believe the deceased did not realise what they were signing or did not fully understand the contents or effects of their last will and testament. For example, there may have been suspicious circumstances relating to the preparation of the will.
- In addition, there may be circumstances where a deceased person is believed to have died in intestate (i.e. they did not have a will) but you believe that they did make a will which has not been presented for probate.
An expert wills lawyer, such as the team of Sheffield and Chesterfield solicitors at Graysons will be able to advise whether you have grounds to successfully contest a last will and testament.
What if the will is valid, but I believe I am entitled to a larger portion of the estate?
It is possible to contest a last will and testament even if it is found to be legal. For example, The Inheritance Act allows for a will to be challenged if reasonable financial provision for certain dependents – such as a spouse, civil partner, and children or other persons previously maintained by the deceased – has not been made. If you believe this is the case, then you should seek legal advice as soon as possible with an experienced lawyer specialising in wills, such as Graysons’ team of Sheffield and Chesterfield solicitors.
Is there a time limit on contesting a last will and testament?
It is better to contest a will as soon as possible ideally before a grant of probate is issued. This allows for an application to be made to the probate registry for a caveat to be entered against the estate. This stops a grant of probate being issued until the dispute has been resolved. If you challenge a last will and testament after a grant of probate has already been issued, or once estate assets have been distributed, it can make the process and recoverability of funds exceptionally complex and difficult.
Specific time limits depend on what grounds you are using to challenge the will. For example, claims made under The Inheritance Act must be made within six months of the date of issue of the grant of probate or letters of administration. However, if the grounds for contesting the last will and testament relate to fraud, then there are no time limits.
Will I have to go to court if I contest a will?
If you contest a will, then you may have to go to court. An experienced wills lawyer, such as Graysons’ team of solicitors in Sheffield and Chesterfield, will aim to resolve the matter by a process of dispute resolution. If the matter cannot be resolved, then the case may proceed through the courts with the matter ultimately being resolved by a judge on considering all the relevant evidence.
Is it worth contesting a will?
Contesting a will can be an emotional, stressful, and time-consuming process. Challenging a will may mean fracturing relationships with close family members and friends. It can also be costly. It is also worth noting that if a will is found to be invalid, then the estate will be administered in accordance with the deceased’s previous will, or if there is no prior will, by the rules of intestacy. Before contesting a will you should therefore consider what the outcome will be.
How can I stop my will being contested?
The best way to ensure that your last will and testament is valid, reducing the chances that it will be contested, is to engage the services of a wills and trusts expert such as Graysons’ team of will writing solicitors in Sheffield and Chesterfield. A professional will writing solicitor will ensure your last will and testament is correctly and accurately drafted in accordance with the law and procedure.
How can Graysons’ team of will solicitors in Sheffield and Chesterfield help?
Graysons’ team of solicitors are experts in wills and trusts. If you wish to contest a will, need help drafting or amending your own will, or need advice on wills and estate planning, then contact Graysons today.