The passing of a loved one is a difficult time, and dealing with legal matters can add further stress and complications. A will is a crucial legal document which outlines the distribution of a person’s assets after their death. Whilst the majority of wills are administered without any issues, there are situations where individuals may wish to contest a will if they believe it does not accurately represent the deceased’s intentions or if there are concerns about its validity.
Grounds for Contesting a Will
Contesting a will is a legal process, and to have a valid claim, you must have legitimate grounds. In the UK, there are several common reasons to contest a will:
- Lack of Capacity: If there are concerns about the mental capacity of the deceased at the time of making the will, it can be challenged. The law requires the testator (the person making the will) to be of sound mind and understanding the nature of their actions and the consequences of their decisions.
- Undue Influence: If it can be proven that the testator was coerced or unduly influenced by someone into making specific provisions in the will, it may be invalidated.
- Lack of Proper Formalities: A will must adhere to certain formalities prescribed by law. If these formalities, such as signing in the presence of witnesses, are not met, the will could be considered invalid.
- Fraud or Forgery: If there is evidence to suggest that the will was forged or fraudulent in any way, it can be contested.
- Rectification and Construction Claims: In some cases, the language used in the will may be unclear or ambiguous, leading to disputes among beneficiaries. A construction claim seeks to interpret the will’s meaning, whilst a rectification claim aims to correct any errors in the drafting of the will’s
- Family and Dependants’ Claims: In certain circumstances, if the will does not make reasonable financial provisions for some family members or dependents, they may be eligible to make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
Time Limits for Contesting a Will
It’s essential to be aware that there are time limits for contesting a will. If you wish to challenge a will, you may only have six months from the date of probate to lodge a claim. Probate is the legal process that verifies the will’s validity and grants authority to the executor to distribute the estate. However, there are exceptions to this rule, especially for cases involving fraud or forgery, where there might not be a strict time limit.
The Process of Contesting a Will
Contesting a will is a complex legal process, and it’s advisable to seek professional legal advice from a solicitor who specialises in contested wills.
Here is a general overview of the process:
- Gathering Evidence: You will need to gather evidence to support your claim, such as medical records, witness statements, and any relevant documents related to the deceased’s mental capacity or documents which may assist any claim for potential undue influence.
- Mediation and Negotiation: Before issuing a claim mediation can be attempted to resolve the dispute amicably. This is a much quicker and more cost effective option to a fully contested court action.l.
- Issuing a Claim: If mediation fails or is inappropriate, your solicitor will help you issue a claim at the appropriate court, setting out the grounds upon which you are contesting the will.
- Court Proceedings: Both parties will present their evidence and arguments in court, and a judge will make a decision based on the merits of the case.
Contesting a will is a significant step and should not be taken lightly. If you believe you have valid grounds to challenge a will, seeking legal advice from an experienced solicitor is crucial to understand your rights and can increase your chances of a successful claim.
Remember, time is of the essence, so act promptly if you wish to contest a will.
If you would like to discuss anything in this article or are looking to contest a will, contact us on 01603 677077 or email email@example.com.