When a loved one passes away, the Estate they leave behind must be dealt with. Someone must be legally appointed to deal with the deceased’s affairs and estate – a process known as obtaining a Grant of Representation. If the deceased leaves behind a will, an Executor will be named. Otherwise, a blood family member entitled to inherit from the estate under the rules of intestacy can act as the Estate administrator.
Contentious probate refers to a dispute which has arisen over the distribution of the deceased’s Estate. If you have concerns about the will a family member or loved one has left behind, you might be able to contest it.
Why would I challenge a will?
People challenge wills for many reasons. Most commonly, challenges arise if:
- You feel the will has inadequately provided for you
- The deceased did not leave you what you were promised or feel you deserve
You can also challenge a will if you believe it was not properly made. You might be concerned it was not drawn up properly, or that someone forged the testator’s signature. Issues with the creation of a will can render it invalid.
To be valid, a will must be:
- Written voluntarily and without influence
- Made by someone over 18 years of age
- Made by someone of sound mind with legal capacity
- Signed in the presence of witnesses
It is not easy to challenge the validity of a will, but our solicitors can help you if you have any concerns.
Who can challenge a will?
Not everyone has the legal right to challenge a will. Broadly speaking, you may challenge a will if you are:
- A blood relative, for example, a sibling, parent or child of the deceased
- A creditor who is owed money by the estate
- A spouse, or former spouse who has not remarried
- A financial dependent of the deceased
- A beneficiary of an earlier will
- A person promised something which is not in the will
Blood relatives are the most likely to contest a will. Our team can advise you if you have the legal standing to make a claim.
How do I go about contesting a will?
You should seek legal advice as soon as possible if you are thinking about contesting a will because there are time limits for making a claim. Generally, the time limits are:
- 6 months if you are making a claim under the Inheritance Act, for example; you are a financial dependent of the deceased and you do not believe they left you adequate financial provisions
- 12 months if you are a beneficiary and you believe you are entitled to a larger share of the estate
- There is no time limit if you are contesting a will on the grounds of fraud, or because you believe it is invalid
Time limits vary considerably, and we always recommend consulting one of our expert solicitors for advice as soon as possible to avoid potentially time-barring your claim.
Another issue you should consider is whether the person named as the Executor has been granted the legal power to start dealing with the Estate.
It is also worth bearing in mind that you cannot be a beneficiary of any will which you help draft – for example, if you help your ageing parent write a ‘DIY’ will.
How long does this process take?
How long it takes to contest a will and reach a resolution varies from Estate to Estate. If the other beneficiaries accept the challenge is fair – such as when a sibling is disinherited after a disagreement, but the other siblings agree this was not fair – the unfair terms can be varied by the beneficiaries to make some provision for the disinherited sibling.
Often, however, the beneficiaries do not accept the challenge to the will. Mediation is often required if the beneficiaries refuse the challenge – a process which can take many months to complete. If mediation fails, it can take up to two years to seek a court resolution.
What if I am the Executor of a disputed Will?
We recommend seeking advice as soon as possible if there are disputes arising, particularly if no agreement can be reached with those contesting the will.
Probate is a complex area and guidance will vary on an individual Estate basis. If you have any concerns, you need to instruct an experienced solicitor for advice as soon as possible. At AMD, our specialist probate solicitors in Bristol can guide you through the entire process and provide bespoke, tailored advice.
Don’t hesitate to contact us today on 0117 962 1205 or by filling out our contact form for assistance and advice on getting started.