Disputing a Will

How to dispute a Will

If a deceased person’s Will does not adequately provide for you, or you think the Will was improperly made, then you may be able to bring a claim to dispute the Will.

Most Will disputes are settled through mediation and do not go to court. Mediation is a voluntary form of negotiation, which allows two parties to come to an agreement on how to solve the dispute settlement themselves without involving the courts. Mediation can go some way to minimising the impact on relationships between family members, which may have been damaged during the disagreement.

Our Disputes team are skilled litigators and are experienced in negotiating successful claims on behalf of our clients.

If you believe that a Will was improperly made, or that you were not provided for and should have been, contact us to speak to our Dispute Resolution team confidentially.

Disputing a Will: 5 steps to maximise your claim

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Disputing a Will: 5 steps to maximise your claim

Disputed Wills are becoming more commonplace in the UK. In this guide, we cover our 5 key tips to maximising your chances of a successful claim, and how we work with our clients to achieve the best possible outcome.

Grounds to dispute a Will

If you are contesting a Will, it is likely that you do not believe that the Will properly reflected the wishes of the person signing it. Some of the reasons for contesting a Will are that you feel the deceased:

  • Did not know they were signing a Will
  • Did not understand the Will
  • Was persuaded or pressured to sign it
  • Did not have proper mental capacity

There are strict rules about how a Will should be signed. You can contest the Will if the will was not signed and witnessed properly.

If you think that the will was not prepared properly by a professional will writer, or the executors are not dealing with the estate properly, then you may also have a claim against the will writer or the executors.

Can I contest a Will after Probate?

There is a strict time limit for contesting a Will. You must bring a claim within six months from the date of the grant of probate. Sometimes the court allows claims after this this period, but it is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible in order to find out where you stand.

How long does it take to contest a Will?

It is difficult to judge how long it will take to make a claim to contest a Will. We will work with you to set out your claim clearly and the reasons for it. Our experience means it is often possible to negotiate a settlement quickly and without expensive court proceedings. If the parties cannot agree a resolution or mediation fails then court proceedings are necessary. In that case it may take one or more years before a claim is finally agreed.

The important issue is to make sure that the solicitor advising you has experience in bringing such claims. The initial letter of claim sets out clearly and in detail the relevant information and states your claim. Often a claim settles quicker if the issues are properly researched. The letter must set out the issues clearly and the reasons for contesting a Will.

Do I have to go to Court?

We will try to settle your through mediation first. Mediation is a form of negotiation allowing two parties to come to an agreement without going to courts. It is usually quicker, cheaper and confidential. If meditation does not work we can issue formal court proceedings to contest a Will. We will work with you to pursue your claim in the most cost effective way.

7 Steps to Contest a Will: Our Process

Step 1 - Initial meeting with you

Our first step will be to hold an initial consultation with you. We will discuss your concerns around the situation and whether you believe the person who made the Will (the testator) lacked knowledge, mental capacity, and approval of what the Will contained, and if you feel they were under undue influence to make the Will.

You may have started to feel concerned following or prior to the death. It may be that someone is benefiting from the Will, or has been made an executor to the Will, which you find surprising. Relations may have become difficult and stressed between various parties after the death which has led to the seeking of legal advice.

Step 2 – Time limits and prevention steps

Once we have taken your instructions, we will investigate whether a Grant of Probate has been obtained. If we discover that no grant has been made by the Probate Registry, we will consider entering a Caveat. A Caveat prevents the issue of a grant of probate. Generally, where a Grant has not been obtained and there is a dispute over the validity of a will, a Caveat should be entered.

There are strict time limits so do not delay in consulting us.

Step 3 – Factoring in property

If property is owned by the deceased, we will usually obtain office copy entries from the Land Registry. This is to review who owned the property and to establish whether any kind of restriction against disposition is needed. When a Grant has been obtained by another party, it is often difficult to attain a restriction.

Step 4 – Establishing how the Will was made

We need to know how the will was made. Often we request a A Larke-V-Nugus statement from the solicitor who originally drafted the Will or witnessed its execution. We will ask the Will maker for a copy for the Will file. The Will maker is also asked for a statement outlining the dealings with the person who made the Will during the Will drafting process.

Step 5 – Medical records of the deceased

The health of the deceased when making the Will is relevant. We may request the Medical records of the deceased. This is important if the claim involves undue influence or a lack of capacity.

Step 6 – Discussing your claim with you

When we have the information we will discuss our findings with you. At the same time we will tell you if you have a good chance of success.

Step 7 – Letter of Claim

The next step is to prepare formal Letter of Claim. This letter sets out why you are challenging the Will and the remedy or outcome that you want. When you agree it, we send it to the opposing party and/or the deceased’s Executors. Usually we include an invitation to try and settle the claim at mediation or other sort of Alternative Dispute Resolution. This can often help to keep costs down and reach an early settlement.

The success of your claim in contested Will cases depends upon the quality of the evidence presented to the Court. It is essential to seek advice from a solicitor you trust. The solicitor must be clear about your chance of success of your a claim to contest a will. We have many years experience in bringing successful contested will claims.

Alex Williams

Alex works in professional negligence, contentious probate, and court of protection litigation. He also has a particular specialism in negligence claims in the financial services sector, including cases against financial advisers and pension providers relating to negligent mis-selling and mismanagement of both pensions and investments.

Read More About Alex
Alex Williams, a suburb negotiator, ably assisted by Daisy Marples and others, saw through a particularly nettlesome dispute on my behalf, and saw it through with great professional flair, exemplary advice and communication, sensitivity, and overall value for money. I absolutely and happily recommend them.

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