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04th October 2019

Can I contest a Will after the estate has been distributed?

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Yes, it is possible to contest the validity of a Will at any time, provided that you have an interest in the deceased’s estate, either as an executor or beneficiary under a previous Will or under the laws of intestacy. However, it is advisable to bring a claim as soon as possible as it is may be more difficult to recover the assets after the Grant of Probate has been issued and the estate has been distributed to the beneficiaries.

What is Probate?

Probate is the process by which the executors administer the deceased’s estate. The executors apply to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Probate (or Grant of Letters of Administration on an Intestacy) which confirms the executors’ authority to act in the administration of the estate and distribute the deceased’s assets in accordance with the Will.

Once the executors have obtained the Grant of Probate, they can collect in all of the deceased’s assets and make distributions to the beneficiaries.

Am I able to block a Grant of Probate?

Yes. A person doubting the validity of a Will can enter a Caveat against the deceased’s estate which prevents a Grant of Probate from being issued until the Caveat is removed. The Caveat is effective for an initial period of six months and can be a useful step to allow time for enquiries to be made before deciding whether to bring a claim. It is possible to renew the Caveat for multiple further periods of six-months at a time.

However, at any time an Executors or beneficiary of the estate may enter a ‘Warning’ to the Caveat. This requires the person who entered the caveat to state in an Appearance to the Warning the grounds on which they contest the Will within 14 days, failing which the caveat will cease to be effective. This is a very short timeframe which may not afford sufficient time to carry out the necessary investigations into the validity of the Will. Once the Appearance stage is reached, the administration of the estate cannot proceed until the dispute as to the validity of the Will has been determined.

Can a Will be overturned after Probate?

Yes. However, it is preferable to take action as soon as possible. Once the Grant of Probate has been issued it would be necessary to bring a claim for it to be revoked. Additionally, the longer the delay in bringing a claim the more likely it is that the executors will have distributed the deceased’s assets to the beneficiaries. It may be possible to recover the assets from the beneficiaries but there is a risk that they will have been spent or sold.

Contesting a Will after the Grant of Probate has been obtained is complex and it is highly recommendable to seek legal advice. If you believe that there is reason to contest a Will in these circumstances, please contact Hewitsons for more information or to arrange a free initial consultation with one of our experienced contentious probate solicitors.