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01st February 2019

What does ‘contesting a Will’ mean?

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Disputes over the terms of a Deceased individuals Will, occur more frequently than you might think. Hewitsons Will & Estate Disputes Team specialise in disputes of this nature. We are regularly contacted and instructed to advise individuals on what is required to contest a Will, where somebody is dissatisfied with the terms of the Deceased’s Will. Such claims can be complicated claims to run: not just because of the legal requirements, but also because of ill feeling these types of claim can cause between family members, no matter how close they are. Emotions often run high within families when an individual seeks to contest a Will, so it is always advisable to seek professional legal advice from experienced solicitors, who can not only provide you with the correct legal guidance, but who are also able to take a step back from the personal issues surrounding the claim and approach the matter independently.

What does contesting a Will mean?

At its simplest level, contesting a Will is the legal process by which one or more parties’ disputes the terms of a Deceased person’s last Will and Testament. Contesting a Will can potentially cover a number of very different claims. Normally disputes arise because an individual believes the Will is invalid, or that they have not been adequately financially provided for under the Will, or that a promise was made to them while the Deceased was alive which has not been fulfilled under the Will.

Who is able to challenge a Will?

The most common types of people seeking to contest a Will are the Deceased’s family– spouses and former spouses, unmarried partners, children and parents. Who is actually able to challenge a Will however, depends upon the type of claim that is being pursued. It is therefore imperative that specialist advice is sought early on to determine whether or not you have “legal standing” to bring a claim.

For example, under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975 (‘the 1975 Act’), a whole range of different people can seek to contest a Will, by claiming that inadequate financial provision has been made for them by the Deceased, provided they fall within one of the classes of applicant listed within the 1975 Act. However those seeking to challenge the validity of a Will, need to be a beneficiary under the Deceased’s previous Will or intestacy rules, to be able to bring a claim of that nature.

What are the grounds for contesting a Will?

It is not enough to believe that you are owed something from the Deceased’s estate. Just because a Deceased person died, for example leaving two children, but only providing for one child in their Will, does not automatically entitle the disinherited child to equal treatment.

There are specific legal grounds which must be fulfilled to be successful in contesting a Will, dependent upon the type of claim that is advanced. For example, if you believe that the Will is invalid, you must be able to evidence one of the following:

  1. The Will was not correctly signed and witnessed
  2. The signature on the Will is not the Deceased's signature
  3. The Deceased lacked testamentary capacity at the relevant time
  4. The Deceased did not know and approve of the contents of the Will
  5. The Deceased was subject to the undue influence of another person

Alternatively, if you are a child of the Deceased for example, pursuing a claim under the 1975 Act, you must be able to evidence that the Will (or intestacy where there is no Will) fails to make reasonable financial provision for your maintenance. In addition, the Deceased must have lived in England or Wales at the date of their death.

Hewitsons are a 2019 Top Tier law firm, ranked by legal directory, The Legal 500 and are therefore recognised as specialists in inheritance disputes. If you are thinking of contesting a Will, be sure to do so with the right legal assistance supporting you. Contact us today and a member of our team will get in touch with you to arrange a free initial consultation.