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There are a range of reasons why you may consider contesting a Will or challenging an estate. On this page we discuss some of the most common reasons and explain some of the factors that influence whether a claim is possible. It is important to appreciate that taking advice early on maximises your likelihood of a successful claim. Steps can be taken to prevent the Deceased’s estate from being distributed whilst your claim is dealt with. That is not to say your claim will definitely fail if the estate has been distributed – some types of claim can still be made – but it is more difficult to recover monies from the beneficiaries once assets have been distributed.
It is also important to appreciate that many Will challenges do not go to court. Court action is expensive, time consuming, stressful and risky. An experienced solicitor will always try to reach a settlement on your behalf without the need for litigation – for example, using mediation.
Lack of reasonable financial provision
One of the most common reasons for contesting a Will is that the Deceased did not make reasonable financial provision for a loved one. Click here to find out more about claims for reasonable provision under the Inheritance Act.
Aside from claims for reasonable provision under the Inheritance Act, there are a range of other reasons which may lead to a Will being contested.
Contesting a Will: contentious probate
When someone dies, it may be necessary to apply for an order allowing for their estate to be dealt with. The majority of these applications are processed in accordance with the Non-Contentious Probate Rules 1987. Provided that there is no challenge to the estate, a grant of probate or letters of administration will be issued and the Deceased’s personal representatives can get on with their duties.
However, sometimes interested parties may wish to bring a ‘probate claim’.
Types of probate claims
Types of claim include:
- Interest actions
- Claims for or against the authenticity of a particular Will
- Claims that an existing grant of probate should be revoked.
An interest action involves a dispute as to the interest of someone who claims to be entitled to a grant of probate (or letters of administration). Such actions may purely relate to a person who believes they are entitled to administer the estate – or they may be part of more complex claims which relate to the validity of the Will. Alternatively it may involve considerations as to the applicant’s legitimacy – for example, the question of whether a person is really a child of the Deceased is relevant both to their entitlement to administer the estate and whether they are entitled to inherit under the Deceased’s Will.
Authenticity of Will
These are claims to determine if a Will is valid or not. They might be brought by an executor, for example, after someone has disputed that the Will is valid by entering a ‘caveat’. This is a notice given by someone who wants to prevent a grant of probate or letters of administration being issued without them being notified.
Alternatively such a claim might be brought by the person disputing the validity of the Will. This may be appropriate if the Executor refuses to prove the Will.
Revocation of grant
If the Will has already been proved but someone wants to claim it is invalid (and therefore that a grant of probate or letters of administration should not have been issued, the claim will be for revocation of the grant. This might be for example if a more recent Will comes to light, or if the person given the grant was not entitled to it.
Reasons a Will could be invalid
There are a number of reasons why a Will might be found to be invalid, thus leading to a claim regarding its authenticity. Some of these are set out below – click on a link to find out more.
7. Revocation of the Will
9. Lack of interest
A specialist lawyer can advise on whether you have grounds to make one of the above types of claim. Get in touch for advice.
Can I challenge a lifetime gift?
Sometimes the fact that a Testator’s estate was substantially reduced due to lifetime gifts is not discovered until the Testator dies. At this point, it is not uncommon for relatives to question whether a lifetime gift was made as a result of undue influence. Where there is suspicion about the circumstances under which a lifetime gift has been made – for example, because someone pressured the donor to make the gift or because the donor lacked the mental capacity to understand what they were giving away – it may be possible to challenge the gift.