When you make a will, you are deciding what will happen to your assets once you’ve died, but it isn’t always as clear cut as that. In certain situations, UK wills can be challenged or ‘contested’ [contesting a will is also known, especially amongst lawyers, as “contentious probate”]. Here’s a brief guide on who can contest a will and under which circumstances this can happen.
When Can A Will Be Contested?
Of course, not all wills can be challenged (for example, just because you think you didn’t receive enough money or assets doesn’t mean that it can be changed). In the UK, amongst the three most common reasons why people do challenge a will are if;
1. the will is invalid or
2. if a prominent family member wasn’t left anything or
3. if you believe the will is a forgery
The latter option is often hard to prove, however, and therefore it may cost you a great amount to try and challenge. The will is termed ‘invalid’ if the person writing it was manipulated, deceived, coerced or intimidated by someone to change the content of the will for their own advantage. You can also contest a will if you believe that the person making the will wasn’t aware of – or didn’t fully understand – what they were doing when they made it (for instance, if they had a mental health condition and didn’t understand what they were putting in the will). You can also contest a will if you believe the whole process has been mis-managed by the executor of the will, such as if they have been incompetent or dishonest.
Who Can Contest A Will?
Basically, any family member can contest a will, from husbands and wives/civil partners to children and adult sons or daughters. If spouses received no money in the will (and if there was a sizeable amount allocated to other people or places, such as to a charity), then they can make an inheritance claim and contest on the grounds that they aren’t being provided for. The same can be said of a dependent child. In terms of children who have now grown up, their claim would only have a chance at being successful if they could prove that they were financially dependent upon the parent.
Contesting a UK Will –Is It Worth It?
This is a question you have to ask yourself when deciding whether or not to contest a will, as it can be a long, stressful process where people’s emotions can be very much up in the air. It also isn’t cheap; costs will vary with each situation – ask an expert solicitor for more details – and there’s no complete guarantee that you’ll get what you want at the end of it. Again, a lawyer who specialises in wills can give you advice on whether or not it’s in your interest to proceed. If your case looks strong, some specialist solicitors may be willing to run contentious probate claims under no win no fee agreements
Your Next Steps
If you believe that you have the right to challenge a will – and if you believe you can afford the financial and emotional strains that inevitably come with this whole process – then the next thing you need to do is find the solicitor who can provide you with the right professional advice to help and guide you. Make sure you carry out extensive research before deciding on a lawyer or law firm, and ensure that they have a high level of specialist knowledge in this area and plenty of experience of running contentious probate cases.
Tim Bishop is the senior partner of UK Solicitors, Bonallack and Bishop. For expert legal advice on any aspect of contesting a will in the UK, including, executor disputes or inheritance claims, call them now on 01722 422300 or visit their specialist website at http://ww2.contestingawilluk.co.uk