Losing a loved one is traumatic enough without the added stress of discovering the will includes beneficiaries who, arguably, don’t deserve inheritance. Disputing a will can seem like an endless and daunting process but our team of experienced wills and probate lawyers can guide you through the steps on how to contest a will.
There are a number of key considerations to be aware of before contesting wills.
Do You Have the Right to Contest a Will?
If your circumstances meet any of the following criteria, you have the right to challenge a will:
- You believe the signature on the will was forged or that the testator was unaware of what they were signing
- You were financially dependent on the testator
- You have been removed from the last will after being a named beneficiary in a former will
Legal Grounds for Contesting a Will
As well as having a personal right to challenge a will, you also need to have the legal grounds to do so. These include:
- Invalidity of the will due to not being correctly drawn up or having present witnesses. A properly executed will should be signed by a testator and two present witnesses
- The will doesn’t accommodate financial dependants. If a will doesn’t allow for reasonable provision for spouses, children, or cohabiting partners of at least two years it could be breaching the Inheritance Act of 1975
- The testator wasn’t of ‘sound mind memory and understanding’ when writing or signing the will. If the deceased was under undue influence such as being manipulated or pressured into an irrational decision, the will can be overturned if there is sufficient evidence of coercion.
- Elements of the will were forged or fraudulent
Steps of Disputing a Will
If any of the above criteria reflect your circumstances and you decide to challenge a will, it’s important to note that the process is rarely straightforward or swift. In fact, a contested will can take years to resolve, so it is vital to challenge the will as soon as possible before probate is granted. The support and specialist knowledge of an experienced lawyer can make the process easier:
- First you will need to identify whether you have grounds to contest the will, based on the above criteria. It may be difficult to prove that these legal grounds apply, and this is one of the reasons it is crucial to have a barrister to assist you
- If probate hasn’t already been granted, your solicitor may then file a caveat to prohibit the executor from taking out probate during the legal proceedings of challenging the will
- Unless the beneficiaries are in agreement with you disputing a will, mediation or negotiation may be used to resolve the challenge. This process can last for months but is a way to minimise costs, time and stress by attempting to settle without going to court
- If this attempt at resolution fails, your lawyer can begin the court process, which can be drawn out and time consuming but is the only route to take if mediation or settling has failed
If you need support with disputing a will, our team of family, probate and wills lawyers are here to help.