How do I Contest a Will in England and Wales?

Dispute A WillThere are all sorts of reasons people may decide to contest a Will.   Just email details in the form at the foot and we’ll contact you for a quick informal chat. Or give us a call on 03 300 102 300. Some reasons for the probate to become contentious (contentious probate is the trade jargon for disputing the estate in the UK). It is dangerous territory to stray into with no advice or an inexperienced firm.  Sometimes there isn’t really a dispute, as the changes can be agreed – see Deed of Variation. If there is no agreement, read on…

Can I dispute a will?

Here are some of the grounds to contest a Will (please bear in mind this site covers issues in England and Wales – the law north of the border is totally different and in NI slightly different):

Challenging a Will through Lack of Mental Capacity.

Contesting Wills under these circumstances is common. In effect what you need to prove is that the person making it did not have enough understanding of what they were doing to be capable – under Law – of making a legally valid Will.

Disputing a Will because of Undue influence.

One of the commonest reasons to contest a Will.  What you need to be able to show is that someone has wrongly influenced the person making it (the “Testator” to their benefit or to the benefit of another person.  Undue influence is not easy to prove in general.  However, where the person allegedly doing the influencing is a person on whom the testator (person whose Will it was) is very dependent then it is perhaps easier to convince the Court.  In some cases the burden of proof is actually be reversed especially where the person concerned is a carer.

Contest a Will by Alleging Duress.

Another common reason for disputes.   Where a Will is made “under duress” it means that the person was effectively forced to make it under threat of some sort – real or perceived.  An example would be a beneficiary threatening to put the testator into a care home unless they leave them their cash!

Wrongly witnessed Wills are generally invalid….

You can contest one on the basis that the formalities of signing it were not complied with – for example, the witnesses were not both present at the same time with the testator when they signed the Will.  This is a complex area as people fail to follow the very simple guidelines, and the Courts are called upon to decide if enough has been done to make it valid – or not.

Another Will found –

People are very careless with their legal planning affairs (if you don’t want to be, we suggest you visit this site to avoid your will being contested!)  Each successive new Last Will and Testament normally cancels the previous one automatically, but often people forget where the old one is kept (and indeed the current one) so the wrong one may be found initially.  So one set of executors may in all innocence try to obtain probate on an old one.   When the correct one turns up later, then there are grounds for contesting a dispute, clearly!

Has it been invalidated?

This can be a reason to contest a Will.  The commonest issue is that the Will has been cancelled by a subsequent marriage as it was not (clearly) made in expectation of that marriage.  People can live together for years, having made their Last Wills in the early days – then get married, which will usually cancel them.   If the Wills are not brought back to validity by way of a codicil reviving them, then the Rules of Intestacy may well apply and have a quite different result from that intended.  Foreign Wills often accidentally cancel UK ones and vice versa.

Will destroyed – could it still be valid?

Just because a Will has been destroyed does not necessarily mean it is no longer valid!   There have been cases where Wills have been shredded, thrown into the rubbish etc etc and they have remained legally valid, though often not without contesting the Will or intestacy which would otherwise have been brought into effect.

So how do I contest an Estate?

Like most things you can contest a Will without professional help.  However, contentious probate is a very complex process and it can end up being pretty personal and vicious too. If you get it wrong, it is very easy to end up paying the other sides costs, even if you win! Most people would prefer to make it less personal by employing an experienced contentious probate lawyer.

However, contesting a Will is sometimes a complete waste of time as it can bankrupt the estate or the person the Judge considers does not have a well thought through claim to challenge a Will.   So we recommend that you pay for a professional review before you waste (potentially) tens of thousands of pounds or more with little prospect of success.

Contact us to discuss a formal review before you decide to contest an Estate– spend a few pounds to potentially save far, far more.

How to Contest aN ESTATE

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