How to Contest a Will

Challenging a WillLosing someone close is difficult, there are a myriad of emotions you may go through and practical issues to sort out.  This already difficult time may be compounded if you find your loved one’s Will does not say what you expect it to.

It may be that you have been left out of the Will or left with inadequate financial provision or you may be concerned about the circumstances surrounding the Will, for example you may believe it does not reflect the person’s wishes or feel that pressure was put on them to leave their estate to a particular person.  If you find yourself in this position, there may be grounds to challenge the Will.

On what grounds can you contest a will?

Some of the more common grounds for challenging a Will are set out below.

Mental Capacity

A person making a Will must be of sound mind and have sufficient mental capacity at the time the Will was made.  In broad terms this means the person must:-

  • Understand they are making a Will and the effect of that Will
  • Know the nature of their estate
  • Understand the consequences of including or excluding someone
  • Not be suffering from any disorder of the mind which may influence their views

The Will can be set aside if the person did not have sufficient mental capacity.

Undue influence

A Will can be challenged if it can be demonstrated that the person making the Will was subject to undue influence, for example if they were coerced or put under pressure or duress by another to make the provisions they did in their Will.

Knowledge and approval

A person must know they are signing a Will and approve of its contents.  If the person did not fully understand the Will or approve all of the clauses in the Will, the Will may be invalid.  Wills are sometimes challenged on this basis when there are suspicious circumstances surrounding the making of the Will, for example the person who drafted the Will is the sole beneficiary of the Will.

Executing a Will

There are certain formalities which must be followed for the valid execution of a Will (e.g. the requirement for witnesses).  If these formalities are not followed the validity of the Will can be challenged.

Inadequate financial provision – Inheritance Act Claim

If you have been left out of a Will entirely or not left as much as you need then you may be able to bring a claim against the estate for reasonable financial provision to be made for you.  You may be able to bring a claim if you fall within one of the following categories:-

  • Spouse/civil partner (or in some cases the former spouse/civil partner)
  • A cohabitee who lived with the deceased in the same household as husband or wife two years before death
  • A child or a person treated as a child of the deceased (this includes adult children)
  • A person who immediately before the death of the deceased was maintained either wholly or in part by the deceased

A claim can still be made under the Inheritance Act even if there is not a Will.

Other grounds for contesting a will

Other grounds on which a Will can be challenged include:-

  • fraud or forgery
  • where someone was promised an inheritance under the Will and acted to their detriment in reliance on that promise
  • Trust disputes (e.g. where someone claims they have an interest in the deceased’s property

Next Steps

If you think you may have grounds to challenge a Will it is very important to act quickly as there are strict time limits for bringing a claim and steps need to be taken to prevent the distribution of the estate.  You should therefore take legal advice at the earliest opportunity.

How we can help

We can advise you on your rights and can help you through this process.

At Hart Reade, we pride ourselves on being approachable and building excellent and trusting relationships with clients. We understand these are stressful issues and often involve complex family/emotional relationships which must be dealt with sensitively. We will always work with your best interests at heart giving clear and practical advice.

We also understand costs can be a worry.   Please come and talk to us and we can advise you on your options with regard to costs. In some cases those costs may be payable out of the estate although this is not always the case.

Jacqueline Penfold - Partner - Hart Reade SolicitorsFor advice on contesting a will, please contact Jacqueline Penfold by:

Send your enquiry to Jacqueline Penfold:

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.