The passing of family member or loved one is an extremely difficult time and a will can make matters complicated if you feel that there are issues with the will that has been left behind. If you feel that this is the case, then you may have grounds to contest this will and challenge it in court. If you would like to know more about how to contest a will and the grounds under which you can do so, carry on reading for more information.
What Exactly Is A Will?
Before we delve into inheritance disputes, it is important that we first establish what exactly a will is and why it is important. A will is the legal document made by a person detailing who they want to leave their estate to after they have passed. When we talk of a person’s estate, this includes all of their including property, possessions, money and savings. If the person who has passed away does not leave a will then the law will dictate how these assets are distributed and so assets that were wished to go to a certain person may not happen. When you create a will, this ensures that the law knows how you want your estate to be divided up, however, there are some situations where a will can be contested.
The First Stage of Contesting a Will
When you are looking to contest a will, do not expect this to be an easy process and you will normally have to invest not just lots of your money but also your time too. You will need to seek out the very best legal advice and The Inheritance Experts can provide this for you. They offer a free initial consultation and have a no win no fee policy, so you can be assured that they will be working hard to win your case.
Legal advice is a necessity as without it you won’t have the appropriate legal knowledge needed and so your efforts will most likely be wasted. Furthermore, with wills there are sometimes time constraints and so you cannot waste any precious and should hire someone who knows what it is that they are doing. Lawyers will provide you with specialist knowledge and experience that is needed to get a positive result for your case. Inheritance solicitors should always handle claims with sensitivity while protecting your best interests throughout the case. Many people worry that they will have to endure court cases, however this is not always the case and many contests can be resolved by mediation and negotiation. In this situation, your lawyer will represent you in your legal rights and can also act as a buffer between you and the other party which can minimise the risk of any disputes that are caused by heightened tensions. If the claim cannot be resolved in this way, then your solicitor can then submit your contenting will case to court and this can take anywhere from 12 months to 18 months to completely finalise.
Along with time and money, you will also need to consider how emotionally demanding this process can be as inheritance disputes normally mean battling with family and friends over how the estate is being divided up. No claim can be based simply on a raw emotion and so you will have to have a valid legal reason for contesting a will.
Reasons Under Which You Can Contest A Will
There are usually 6 different legal reasons as to why you can challenge a will. Here, we will briefly discuss what each of them are and you can see if any apply to your particular case.
- Testamentary Capacity – When a person makes a will, they have to be of sound mind under the 1870 Banks v Goodfellow test.
- Lack of Valid Execution – This is when a will can be deemed to be invalid for a number of reasons all of which fall under the will failing to meet specific requirements from the testator. There are strict rules about who can and cannot witness a will and this must be adhered to.
- Lack of knowledge and approval – A person must know that what they are signing is a will and they also have to approve of its contents in its entirety. In this circumstance, there has to be evidence that they were not aware of the content.
- Undue influence – This is when you can contest a will if you think that it has been made because of coercion by someone else.
- Fraudulent or forged wills – If you think a will has been forged or that fraud has taken place, then you have the right to contest that will.
- Rectification claims – A contest can be made if you feel that a will has been negligently drafted.
How to Challenge a Will
If a will is legitimate and legal, there are still ways in which you can change it. While you will not be able to contest it, you can instead challenge it. There are two ways in which you can legally have a will changed.
The first way in which you can have a will changed is through Proprietary Estoppel. This is a legal challenge that can be undertaken if you have had assurances from your deceased family member that you would be the recipient of their land or property, but this has not materialised in their will. Of course, people are always allowed to change their mind. However, if you have been left at a disadvantage because this promise has not been fulfilled and you were acting in a certain way because of this, then you could have a legitimate case to put forward a challenge on a will.
The Inheritance Act 1975
Many people know this as the Inheritance Act 1975, however, it is also known as the Provision for Family and Dependants Act. With this act, you can put forward a case and challenge the will based on there not being enough provision made for you in the will in the case that you are financially dependent on that person.
Do you have a problem with not what is written in the will, but instead how the executor or trustee is behaving? Then you can also challenge them and not the legitimacy of the will. This could be, for example, to do with their conduct or their competency regarding their handling of the will.
What Happens When You Are Successful in Contesting or Challenging a Will?
If you have a good legal team over your inheritance dispute and win your case, then the will then be deemed to be invalid. The old will is then replaced by the new valid will and if there is no other will then the rules of intestacy will begin.
Every case is completely different and unique when it comes to contesting or challenging a will and this is why it is vital that you seek out the best legal advice that you possibly can to ensure that you win your case.