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Contesting a will
Yes, you can, but it is not a straightforward matter. And depending on the nature of your claim, in England & Wales, there may be certain time limits for this process.
Ideally, if you have a case, you will want to contest the Will before Probate is granted. There are two routes that Probate can be granted:
- Grant of Probate – if the deceased has left a valid Will
- Grant of Representation – if the deceased did not leave a valid Will
To make your case as strong as possible, it is essential to establish the facts and determine what the Will says. For example, a Contentious Probate Solicitor can go through your options with you, so it is best to speak to one as early as possible.
Contesting a Will in Court
Everyone one’s circumstances will be different, but some common reasons people come to us when contesting a Will include:
- They were left out of the Will completely
- They received less than they expected
- They were promised a property or an asset in the Will which was never honoured
You can make different claims; however, this depends on your circumstances. For example, if you were completely left out of the Will, you can make a claim to have the Will set aside.
Or you might be looking to be included in the provision of any assets or money being distributed.
Finally, if anything was promised to you in a gift, you can put in a claim to try and enforce that promise. Again, this can be a complex area of law, so you should get the advice of a specialist Contentious Probate Solicitor to help you with this.
What to do if There is No Will
If there isn’t a valid Will in place, then inheritance laws known as the Rules of Intestacy will determine how the deceased’s Estate is distributed.
This requires someone to apply for a Grant of Representation to function as Executor, so it is still possible for you to claim if you feel you have grounds.
Can I Contest a Will Before or after Probate?
It’s best to contest a Will before Probate has been granted simply because the administration of the Will and distribution of assets has not yet properly begun.
If you feel strongly that the Will is invalid, you can lodge a ‘caveat’ with the Probate Registry (Court).
This prevents anyone from obtaining a Grant of Probate for the deceased’s Estate and performing their duties as Executor. Usually, a caveat will be in place for six months.
This might be useful if you are dealing with an Executor who you suspect is trying to keep you from gaining from the Will.
Sadly, this does happen, highlighting why contesting the Will before Probate is granted is better.
What do I need to do to contest a Will?
If you feel you need to contest a Will after Probate has been granted, there are some essential steps you need to take to help you make a claim:
Gather critical documents – Get yourself a copy of the Will. If the Executor withholds this, then speak with our Contentious Probate Solicitors, who can help you get a copy of the Will.
A copy of the Grant of Probate will also help with your claim, giving you more information about when Probate was granted and the value of the Estate.
Consider your relationship with the deceased person – Not everyone can challenge a Will, even if the person was a close friend to you. You can only challenge a Will if you’re a family member, a dependant, a beneficiary, a creditor, or someone who was promised something in the Will.
Consider your grounds for contesting the Will – Do you have a legal basis for a claim? Your Contentious Probate Solicitor can discuss this with you, setting out the grounds for your claim if you have any.
This could be because the Will is invalid, it was forged, or you’re making an Inheritance Act claim.
Consider your time limits
There are specific time limits depending on the nature of your claim. This is governed by the Limitation Act 1980 and is an overly complex area of law.
One of our Contentious Probate Solicitors will be more than happy to explain this if you’re unsure. Below, we explain these time limits and other risks depending on your claim’s nature.
Is Going to Court an Option?
Ideally, you will want to negotiate outside of Court, not just because of cost but time. Your case may be dismissed if the Judge feels you’re delaying the Probate process for malicious reasons.
One of our Solicitors can collaborate with you to help make your case as strong as possible.
Time Limits for Probate Claims
Claims for Financial Provision
You must claim within six months of the Grant of Probate being issued. Claims of this type are usually made under the Inheritance Act 1975.
Claims against Validity of the Will
There is no set time limit if you are claiming the validity of the Will. Instead, you might be bringing about a claim for several reasons, such as whether the deceased person was of sound mind in which to make a Will in the first place.
Claims against Fraud or Forgery
You can also claim if you can prove that a Will has been signed with a forged signature or the deceased was put under undue influence when writing it. If this is the case, then there are no time limits to restrict you from claiming this type.
Contact Probate Legal Advice for free advice