How to contest a will
A will can be challenged on one or more of the following grounds:
- Lack of "testamentary capacity";
- Lack of valid execution;
- Lack of knowledge and approval;
- Undue influence;
- Fraud or forgery; or
- Rectification and construction claims.
Certain relatives and dependants can challenge a will or intestacy if the provision made for them is insufficient by claiming under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I contest a will?
Perhaps the most frequently asked question is who can contest a will.
Anyone who has a beneficial interest, or potential beneficial interest in the deceased's estate, can contest the will, if there are grounds for them to do so. If a will is found to be invalid, the estate will be distributed in accordance with an earlier valid will and if there is no earlier will, the estate will be distributed in accordance with the intestacy rules. Before bringing a claim, it is therefore very important to consider the potential effect on the entitlement to the estate should a challenge succeed.
What should I do if I want to dispute a will?
If you wish to challenge a will or think you may have a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible.
Timing can be critical in probate disputes and legal advice should be sought without delay. For example, claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 must be made within six months of the date of the grant of administration. Urgent action may also be required to prevent a grant of probate from being obtained or to protect estate funds and assets while your claim is being investigated.
Contentious probate is a niche area and we strongly recommend that you seek legal advice from a specialist. You can contact us via email here.
I think the will was forged. What can I do?
If you think a will has been forged, you should seek specialist legal advice as soon as possible. Urgent steps will need to be taken to prevent a grant of probate being obtained and to preserve the estate funds and assets. Extensive enquiries will need to be made into the preparation of the will, which will often include instructing a handwriting expert. Contentious probate is a niche area and we strongly recommend that you seek legal advice from a specialist. You can find details of the lawyers in our dedicated Disputed Wills and Trusts Team here.
Are there time limits for contesting a will?
Yes - the time limits depend on the type of claim. For example, a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, must be brought within 6 months of the date of grant of representation.
Timing can be critical in probate disputes and legal advice should be sought without delay. Contentious probate is a niche area and we strongly recommend that you seek legal advice from a specialist.
How much does it cost to challenge a will?
It is difficult to say how much the total cost of a will dispute will be as it will depend upon what work needs to be undertaken and how the other parties deal with the claim.
The overall cost of court proceedings can however vary from a few thousand pounds to many tens of thousands of pounds. Depending on the circumstances of the case, we generally always try and settle our cases outside of court to keep costs to a minimum for our clients. This also means our clients have as much control as they can over any settlement reached.
We appreciate that the cost of obtaining legal advice or pursuing or defending a claim is often of most concern to clients. Depending on the circumstances of your case, we may be able to offer you various funding options, such as "no win, no fee" or a deferred payment arrangement.
I think my loved one was pressured into making a will. Is the will valid?
A person must be free to make their will voluntarily. If it is found that they were forced into signing a will or undue pressure was put on them, the will is invalid.
I have not received an inheritance that I was promised. Is there anything I can do?
Disputes often arise after a person's death if a will does not reflect a promise made by the deceased before his or her death (such as a promise to transfer land or property). It may be possible to enforce a promise that is not subsequently fulfilled in a will but only if the claimant has relied on that promise and acted on it to his or her detriment. This is known as a proprietary estoppel claim.
How do I obtain a copy of a will?
While a person is still alive, their will is strictly confidential and only they can give a copy to you. Once that person dies, their personal representatives stand in their shoes. It is then for the personal representatives to decide whether to provide a copy to you.
Once a grant of probate has been issued the will becomes a public document and anyone can obtain a copy from the Probate Registry.
How can I prevent a Grant of Probate being issued?
You can prevent either a grant of probate or grant of administration by lodging a caveat at the Probate Registry. For more information, see Caveats, warnings and appearances.
How can I find out when a Grant of Probate has been issued?
You can find out when a Grant of Probate or Grant of Administration (also known as a Grant of Letters of Administration) has been obtained by lodging a "standing search" at the Probate Registry. The standing search stays in place for 6 months and can be renewed on expiry.