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Contesting a Will

Our experienced, specialist solicitors can help you.

We cover the full range of claims in this area including:

  • Contesting the validity of a Will
  • Claims for reasonable financial provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants Act) 1975
  • Proprietary Estoppel claims
  • Claims for the rectification of Wills based on clerical error or a failure to understand a testator’s instructions

Free Initial Consultation

Click here or call us on 0330 311 0885

Download our Practical Guide to Contesting a Will here

Our experienced specialist solicitors can help you

We have a team of approachable, responsive solicitors, all of whom are members of the Association of Contentious Trusts and Probate Specialists (ACTAPS). The team is consistently rated year on year as a Top Tier firm by The Legal 500 for its work in this area.

As well as inheritance disputes, the team also deal with:
  • Claims for removal of Executors
  • Trust litigation
  • Financial abuse of the elderly & vulnerable
  • NHS Continuing Healthcare funding decisions
  • Long-term care funding issues
  • Deprivation of Liberty matters

Call our Specialists on 0330 311 0885

Top Tier The Legal 500

Our Will & Estates Disputes Expert

Tiffany Benson
Legal Director
Head of Will & Estate Disputes

Tiffany is a full Member of the Association of Contentious Trusts and Probate Specialists (ACTAPS) and recognised specialist in this complicated legal area.

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How to contest a Will

Contesting a Will can potentially cover a number of very different claims. Identifying the type of claim the individual actually wishes to bring depends on the facts of each case. It is for this reason that we recommend you seek legal advice from a professional, who is a recognised specialist in this area.

Reasons to contest a Will can include:

    Invalid Will

    It may be that there is strong evidence to suggest the Will is invalid, in circumstances for example where it was incorrectly executed. In such a case the individual would be challenging the validity of the Will and seek to set it aside.

    Lack of financial provision

    The Will may be valid, however the disappointed beneficiary may not have been adequately financially provided for within the Will and therefore in need of financial provision from the Estate. In such a scenario the client would need to take legal advice as to whether they are a qualifying claimant under The Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975.

    Download our Practical Guide to Inheritance Act claims here

    Clauses of the Will are incorrect or unclear

    The wording of the Will may be incorrect, or unclear, leading to a claim in rectification or construction of the Will.

    Unfulfilled Promises

    An individual may have been promised something in lifetime by the Deceased and relied upon that promise to their detriment, only to learn the promise was not fulfilled on the Deceased’s death. In such circumstances the individual may have a claim in proprietary estoppel.

    Can a Will be contested?

    Contentious probate is a specialist and very niche legal area. Many people believe that simply because they are a close relative of the Deceased and are a disappointed beneficiary, that they have an automatic right to bring a claim to contest the Will. This is not the case and it is for this reason that specialist legal advice should be sought at an early stage.

    Before pursuing a dispute as to the validity of a Will, it is important to establish firstly, whether you have “legal standing” to bring a claim (i.e. the right to bring a claim) and secondly, whether you have sufficient evidence to support one of the grounds required (see FAQ), to set aside the current Will in dispute.

    Our specialist team can advise you on the appropriate investigatory steps that might need to be undertaken in your specific case. This may involve obtaining further details into the circumstances surrounding the preparation and execution of the Deceased’s Will, from the solicitors who took the Will instructions, for example. Alternatively, the Deceased’s medical records may need to be requested, or statements taken from the witnesses to the Will.

Contesting a Will claims are typically both a sensitive and complicated legal area. Each type of claim referred to above is distinct from the other and has to be approached differently. It would be unwise and potentially very costly, to bring a particular claim yourself without having taken advice on the grounds and procedures to be followed.

It is important to seek specialist legal advice as soon as possible, so that those dealing with the Estate can be notified promptly of any potential contesting a Will claim, ideally prior to the Estate being distributed. Our expert team have many years of experience in this area.

We can advise on all types of contesting a Will disputes and are recognised specialists in this niche legal area. Please contact any member of the team for a free initial discussion to discuss the merits of contesting a Will on 0330 311 0885 or email us at

Frequently Asked Questions?

    How long do you have to contest a Will?

    The time limit within which you must issue your claim at court, will depend upon the type of contesting a Will claim you intend to bring. We strongly recommend that you seek legal advice immediately. Do not delay, otherwise you may find yourself time-barred and prevented from bringing the claim at all.

    6 Months – There is a short time limit of only 6 months from the date of the Grant of Probate, in claims for maintenance under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

    No Time Limit – It is a commonly held misconception that you have 12 years from date of death to challenge the validity of a Will. This is incorrect. There is in fact no time limit for such claims.

    Our recommendation is that as soon as you become aware of a potential contesting a Will dispute, you do not delay in taking specialist legal advice. Call us on 0330 311 0885 or email us at

    Who can challenge a Will?

    In order to have "legal standing" to bring a challenge to the validity of a Deceased persons Will, you must be a beneficiary of a greater share under a previous Will (if they had one), or a beneficiary under the laws of intestacy (where there is no previous Will). It is wrong to assume that everyone can contest a Will, in such circumstances.

    If the current Will subject to challenge is successfully overturned and declared invalid, the Deceased’s directly previous valid Will, will usually be resurrected. In the event that an overturned invalid Will creates an intestacy, there is a strict hierarchy of relatives in those circumstances who will then inherit the Deceased’s Estate.

    You must therefore be satisfied that you are a beneficiary under a previous Will (or intestacy), before bringing such a claim. Hewitsons specialist team can establish whether you have the requisite legal standing and in turn, sufficient merit to investigate the claim further.

    There are a number of other Will disputes, aside from challenging the validity of a Will. Depending upon the type of claim, there may be certain categories of individuals only who can bring a claim, set out within legislation. Due to the very diverse nature of claims that can be brought against a Deceased individuals Estate, it is advisable to obtain specialist advice, from the very outset. For free advice on whether you can contest a Will, call 0330 311 0885 or email us at

    Cost of contesting a Will

    It is very difficult to say at the outset what the overall costs of contesting a Will may be. As part of your free initial consultation we will establish the nature of your claim and provide a fee estimate of any initial work to be undertaken. The majority of cases can be resolved without court intervention. Others may require the courts involvement and case management. Much depends upon the complexity of the claim and the stance to be taken by the opponents in the case.

    Litigating any claim through the Court can be costly and it is incorrect to assume that costs in these types of cases, will be paid out of the Deceased’s Estate. Ultimately, where court proceedings have been issued, it is at the discretion of the Court where the costs fall, however more often than not, it is the losing party who bears the winning party’s costs, in addition to their own.

    We recognise that contesting a Will claims are often complex and emotionally charged. We appreciate that in most cases, your primary objective will be to dispose of the dispute as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.

    Hewitsons have a team of solicitors who are experienced in providing the specialist knowledge required to resolve these disputes at highly competitive rates. The focus of our solicitors is to achieve a negotiated settlement, where possible, in order to minimise costs. We actively promote dispute resolution methods such as mediation and a good deal of the advisory work we do relates to how settlements might be structured so as to avoid costly court proceedings.

    If settlement discussions are unsuccessful, we have a proven track record of success at trial. Call us for free advice on 0330 311 0885 or email us at

    The legal grounds for contesting a Will

    In terms of challenging the validity of the Deceased's Will, the grounds for challenging a Will are limited. Testators are meant to have complete testamentary freedom when it comes to making a Will and can leave their Estate to whoever they wish, as long as the Will is valid to start with.

    The grounds for disputing a Will are as follows:

    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

    For more information on the grounds for contesting a Will, please contact one of the Hewitsons Will dispute lawyers on 0330 311 0885 or email us at

    What to do if a Will is challenged

    If you are an Executor or Administrator of a Deceased person’s Estate, or a beneficiary under the Deceased’s Will or intestacy, you may be faced with a situation where you are notified of a potential claim upon the Estate. Such a claim may impede the administration and ultimate distribution of the Estate, until the dispute has either been resolved or disposed of. In such circumstances it is very important to seek specialist legal advice on the merits of the potential claim and how best to respond, as soon as you receive notification of the dispute. We have a team of approachable, responsive solicitors, all of whom are members of the Association of Contentious Trusts and Probate Specialists (ACTAPS).

    Call us for free advice on 0330 311 0885 or email us at

    Inheritance Claims (“1975 Act Claims”)

    Under English law, it is acknowledged that Testators should have complete testamentary freedom and be able to leave their estate to whoever they wish, provided the Will is valid. However, there is an exception to this principle under The Inheritance Act (Provision for Family and Dependants) 1975. This Act recognises, that where an individual was dependent upon the Deceased, the Deceased owes that individual an obligation to make provision for them from their Estate.

    Call us for more information on 0330 311 0885 or email us at

    Who can bring an Inheritance Act claim?

    To bring such a claim, you must fall within one of the classes of applicant listed below:

    1. The spouse or civil partner of the Deceased
    2. The former spouse or former civil partner of the Deceased
    3. Cohabitant (who lived with the Deceased for a minimum period of two years immediately before their death as the husband or wife of the Deceased)
    4. A child of the Deceased
    5. A person who was treated as a child of the Deceased
    6. Someone who was maintained by the Deceased immediately before their death

    What are the grounds for bringing an Inheritance Act claim?

    To bring a claim under the 1975 Act, the Deceased must have lived in England or Wales. In addition, you must be a potential claimant who falls within one of the classes of applicant set out under S.1 of the Act (referred to above).

    If you are a qualifying Claimant, to bring a successful claim, you must be able to evidence that the Will (or intestacy where there is no Will), fails to make reasonable financial provision for you

    If the Will or intestate Estate fails to make reasonable financial provision for the applicant and this is deemed unreasonable, then the Court has the discretion to make appropriate provision for the applicant from the Deceased’s Estate. What is reasonable financial provision, will depend upon the size and nature of the Deceased’s Estate.

    Call us for more information on 0330 311 0885 or email us at

    What is the time limit to bring an Inheritance Act claim?

    A claim under the 1975 Act must be brought within 6 months of the date of the Grant of Probate (or Grant of Letters of Administration where there is no Will).

    To bring a claim outside of the limitation date requires the permission of the Court and is given in exceptional circumstances only.

    Don’t delay contacting our specialists, the first 30 minutes is completely free call 0330 311 0885 or email us at

    Defending an Inheritance Act claim

    All Personal Representatives of an Estate (Executors or Administrators) will be joined as a Defendant to any claim under the 1975 Act and are required to file certain evidence.

    Since it is the Personal Representative’s job to collect in and administer the Deceased’s Estate only, such a claim should not be treated as a hostile action against those representing the Estate. Personal Representatives are therefore meant to adopt a “neutral stance” in such claims, to avoid being personally at risk on costs.

    It is for the beneficiaries under the Will (or intestacy) to actively defend the claim and/or seek to explore a settlement with the Claimant.

    If you need professional help call our expert lawyers on 0330 311 0885 or email us at

Free Initial Consultation

We do understand the need for flexibility in funding claims to contest a Will and we always look for creative solutions to funding issues for you.

Our team of expert specialist lawyers are happy to discuss the circumstances of any potential claim, by email, over the telephone, or in person. Hewitsons have offices in Cambridge, London, Northampton and Milton Keynes, where meetings can be held in person. We can equally arrange meetings via Skype or Video Conferencing for those long distance or overseas clients.

The first thirty minutes of the consultation are free of charge. The purpose of the initial free consultation is to establish the background to your case and to identify any appropriate next steps, should the merits of the case justify further action. During the consultation, fee estimates and time scales for any further work we are instructed to undertake will be discussed to ensure costs transparency.

To arrange a free consultation please call the team on 0330 311 0885 or email

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