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Contesting a Will

Our expert lawyers are regularly instructed in a wide-range of contentious trust and probate cases and cases involving:

Home » Personal Law » Personal Disputes » Trust & Probate Disputes

Our experienced litigation lawyers work closely with our trust & estate lawyers to offer exceptional expertise.

  • Contested Wills
  • Claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975
  • Disputes relating to the administration of trusts and estates
  • Disputes relating to the use of Enduring Powers of Attorney
How can I help you?
Rob Ripley
Partner

T: 01482 320 620

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Jacqui Johnson
Partner

T: 01472 311 711

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View All FAQs
FAQs
What constitutes a valid Will?
A Will is an official legal document, so there are certain rules that must be followed in order for the Will to be valid. These rules range from the relatively simple (for example, the person writing the Will must be 18 or over) to the potentially complex, such as the person writing the Will must be of sound mind. It is common for nobody to realise that a Will is invalid until the person making the Will has died. That leaves friends and family in a difficult position – what do you do when a loved one has died but their Will is invalid? In some cases mistakes can be rectified by applying to court to have the Will corrected. In other cases friends and family may end up in a dispute over what to do with the estate, especially when somebody feels they have been unfairly left out of the Will or not adequately provided for.
How much will it cost me for the legal proceedings?
We understand that the costs of bringing and defending such claims can be prohibitive and can offer an unparalleled range of funding options including, in appropriate cases, conditional fee ("no win, no fee") and discounted fee ("no win, low fee") arrangements. We can also offer 'after the event' legal expenses insurance cover against the risk of having to pay your opponent's legal costs. If the parties settle the dispute between themselves, then they can agree between them who should pay the costs. If the matter goes to a trial and is decided by a judge, then the judge will also decide who should pay the costs of the dispute. The usual rule is that the losing party will pay the winning party’s costs, although on some occasions the court can order that costs be paid by the deceased’s estate. The court will decide not only who should pay the costs but also the amount of cost that a party should pay another and this is determined by a procedure known as assessment. In practice, it is unusual for a party to recover all his or her costs from another party, even if you win. A full trial is likely to cost several thousand pounds at least. However, many matter settle at an earlier stage and in that case the costs would be less than those incurred at a full trial. It is not possible to be more precise as to costs as each matter is unique, but your solicitor will give you an estimate for each stage of work as matters proceed.
What happens if there is no Will?
If the deceased died without leaving a valid Will, then his or her estate (the assets after payment of any debts) will be administered in accordance with the intestacy rules, which are rules set down in law as to who inherits what proportion of the estate. Those entitled to inherit under the intestacy rules include a spouse, civil partner and children. The rules also provide for parents and siblings to inherit where there is no surviving spouse, civil partner or children. Currently there is no provision in the rules for unmarried cohabiting couples. A surviving unmarried partner will not be entitled to anything from their partner’s estate, if there is no Will.
My partner and I were not married and he / she died without making a Will.  What can I do?
As your partner died without making a Will, his or her estate will be administered in accordance with the intestacy rules and you will not inherit anything. If you owned assets in joint names, such as your home, your partner’s share may pass to you depending on how you owned that asset. For example, if you owned your home as what is called joint tenants you would inherit your partner’s share. However, if you owned your home as what is called tenants in common, you would not and your partner’s share would fall into his or her estate to be administered in accordance with the intestacy rules. You may be eligible to bring a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependents) Act 1975. We suggest that you seek legal advice about whether such a claim would be appropriate in your circumstances.
What if I haven’t been provided for or I am unhappy about my share?
If the Will is valid you may be able to bring a claim under the Inheritance Act 1975. This Act allows certain categories of claimant to bring a claim against an estate where 'reasonable financial provision' has not been made for them either under a Will or intestacy (where no Will was made). Husbands and wives, civil partners, ex-spouses, ex-civil partners, children, those treated as children, people who live together and those who were financially dependent on the deceased immediately prior to their death, are all entitled to claim. Claims under this Act must be issued at court within six months of the date of the grant of probate or grant of letters of administration.
Can I contest or challenge the validity of a Will?
Yes, in certain circumstances. If you have concerns about whether any of the following situations apply to the deceased’s last Will, then you should seek legal advice: • The Will was not signed or witnessed properly; • The person who made the Will lacked the capacity (mental understanding) to do so; • The person who made the Will was pressured into or coerced by another person to make the Will in the terms that they did; • The person who made the Will did not know and approve the contents of their Will; • You suspect that the Will is forged. If a Will is found to be invalid by reason of any of the above, then the estate will be administered in accordance with the terms of the deceased's previous valid Will or, if there isn’t one, in accordance with the intestacy rules.
What should I do if I want to contest a will?
You should seek legal advice as soon as possible. As an initial step you may be advised to apply to the Probate Registry to enter a caveat which will prevent the executors or administrators from obtaining a grant of probate, or grant of letters of administration, and administering the estate. This will allow further time in which to make investigations as to the circumstances surrounding the preparation and signing of the Will, which may include obtaining the deceased’s medical records and information from any solicitor instructed in relation to the preparation of the Will.
I am not happy with the way in which the executors are dealing with the estate, what can I do?
I am a beneficiary of an estate and am not happy with the way in which the executors are dealing with the estate. Is there anything I can do? It depends on what the problem is. Each estate and each administration is different and therefore there is no set time in which an estate should be administered. However, you are entitled to ask for information about the estate from the executor and to receive updates. If you have concerns that an executor is not dealing with an estate properly, or is not fit to administer the estate, then you may be able to apply to the court to remove him or her and replace him with another person.
Will it involve going to court?
We aim to resolve matters by negotiation, mediation or other methods of alternative dispute resolution where possible. If it is, in those circumstances you would not need to go to court. However, this all depends upon the other side and their attitude to the dispute. You will only need to physically attend at court if your matter proceeds to a full trial, and in those circumstances we will provide you with full support.