The time immediately following the death of a loved one is always a difficult time for all involved. This time can unfortunately be even more painful if there is confusion or dispute surrounding the manner in which the deceased's estate will be split between beneficiaries.
Contesting a will is the process of challenging a will by a relative or other beneficiary who believes that the will distributes the deceased's estate in an unfair way, or that the will does not accurately reflect the deceased's intentions.
If you believe a will has been drafted negligently, or that it does not accurately reflect the wishes of the deceased, you may be able to contest, or challenge the will.
Contesting a will can be a sensitive issue, and is probably the last thing you will want to think about after the death of a loved one, however it's important to start the process as soon as possible. This is because it may become difficult to contest a will if more than six months have passed since the Grant of Probate (the document issued by the court after which payments can be made from the deceased's estate).
Reasons for contesting a will
Common reasons for contesting a will include the following;
* The will does not accurately reflect the wishes of the deceased. The will may have been drafted negligently, or subtleties in the wording may mean that instructions in the will are contrary to what the deceased intended.
* The will was signed under 'undue influence' or duress. This usually means that the deceased was under pressure from a third party to divide up their estate in a particular way.
* Lack of mental capacity. The deceased lacked the mental capacity to sign or give instructions regarding their will in the correct and intended manner. This may have been due to a condition that affects the cognitive abilities such as dementia.
* Errors in the way the will was drafted or signed.
Inheritance Act 1975
The object of an Inheritance Act Claim is to redistribute the deceased's estate to ensure reasonable financial provision for those related to the deceased and their dependants if the will or the law relating to intestacy has not done so already. A claim under the Inheritance Act is a claim made by a person associated with the deceased, to become a beneficiary, or a greater beneficiary, of the deceased's estate.
To make a claim under the Inheritance Act, you need to be a spouse, civil partner or cohabitee, a former husband, wife or civil partner of the deceased who was receiving maintenance and has not remarried/entered into a new civil partnership , a child or person treated as a child of the deceased, or a person partly or completely maintained by the deceased immediately prior to their death.
Contesting a will - the next steps
When contesting a will, the first step is to find the right solicitor to help. This is an important decision - you should choose a solicitor who has experience in contentious probate and has handled similar cases before. You may also want to find a solicitor who can act on a no win no fee basis, meaning if your case is unsuccessful, you will not be responsible for your solicitor's legal costs. What's more, if your case is successful, your solicitor will usually recover your legal costs from the other side. It's worth double-checking this before committing to anything. Your solicitor will then be able to talk you through the process of contesting a will, answer any questions you may have, and guide you through the process.