If you have been left out of the Will of one of your parents or feel that the inheritance they have left you is unfair, you may be able to challenge the Will under certain circumstances. In this article we examine potential grounds for contesting a Will, the process for doing so and how likely a challenge is to succeed.
Grounds for contesting a Will
The grounds on which you can challenge a Will are likely to depend on your particular circumstances. However, the following reasons may allow you to successfully contest your parent’s Will:
If the Will is not legally sound – There are various ways in which a Will can be considered not legally sound, including if the deceased did not have the mental capacity to make valid Will, if they came under undue influence from a third party and if the Will was not executed correctly e.g. mistakes were made in the way the Will was written or witnessed.
Claiming for maintenance – If you were financially dependent on the deceased and they have failed to provide for you in their Will, you may be able to make a claim for maintenance to help provide for you.
If the Will fails to make “reasonable financial provision” for you – It is sometimes possible to challenge a Will on the basis that it does not make reasonable financial provision for you, although such challenges can be hard to succeed with.
How to contest a Will
If you want to challenge a Will, it is important to move quickly as there are time limits for making certain types of claims, including a 6-month time limit for making a maintenance claim.
One of the first steps to challenging a Will is to make sure you have a copy of the Will. You can request a copy from the Executor, but if they refuse to provide one, you can apply to your local probate registry for a Caveat to prevent grant of probate. This can stop the Executor from gaining control of the estate for at least 6 months.
In most cases, a claim against a Will can be resolved through negotiation or mediation with the Will’s beneficiary or beneficiaries. However, if necessary you may need to take the matter to court for a ruling.
If you wish to contest a parent’s Will, it is essential to get the advice of an experienced probate solicitor to ensure you put together the strongest possible case and have the best chance of a successful outcome.
Is a challenge to a Will likely to succeed?
There is no guarantee of success when contesting a Will and it can be hard to predict the likelihood of a favourable outcome at the outset of any challenge.
In a recent case, a daughter disinherited by her father was awarded £30,000 from his estate after making a challenge on the grounds that his Will did not make reasonable financial provision for her. Crucial to the case was that the daughter wanted to use the money to pay for a veterinary course and had made numerous attempts to re-establish contact with her father, but he had rebuffed these efforts.
In another recent case, a woman made a challenge after being excluded from her mother’s Will and was initially awarded £50,000. The woman appealed the award and her inheritance was increased to £143,000. However, the animal charities that were the original beneficiaries of the Will appealed both decisions and eventually the case made its way to the Supreme Court, who ruled that the original £50,000 award should be restored.
These two cases demonstrate that the law is not straightforward in these areas and it can be a long and complicated process to challenge a Will. However, in both cases the claimants did end up being awarded an inheritance where previously they had been left out of their parents’ Wills, showing there is hope for such claims.
For more information and advice on contesting a Will, or general advice on issues related to Wills and probate, please get in touch with Tim Flower on 01202 292 424.