Can You Contest a Will?

When you have not been included in a Will or you have not been left the inheritance you were expecting, it can be a confusing time. You might be worried that the wrong version of the Will has been used, the Will has been misinterpreted, the deceased was improperly influenced to change their Will or that any number of other issues may have occurred.

It is possible to contest a Will, but this will depend on the person contesting the Will and their relation to the deceased. In addition, there are specific grounds on which a Will can be contested and time limits to raise a dispute. It is therefore essential to seek expert advice as soon as possible.

The prospect of disputing a Will can be daunting, particularly during a time of loss and grief. But if you believe you have missed out or someone’s true wishes have not been respected, it is important not to just accept the situation. 

Contesting a Will can be a complicated matter, but with the assistance of a specialist Wills solicitor, it does not need to be an insurmountable problem. In this article, we will discuss the ins and outs of contesting a Will, including:

  • What are the grounds for contesting a Will?
  • Who can contest a Will?
  • What is the process of contesting a Will?
  • How long do you have to contest a Will?

For advice about resolving a Will dispute, contact your local Heringtons office in Battle, Bexhill on Sea, Eastbourne, Hastings or Rye.

Or fill in our online enquiry form and we will be in touch shortly.

What are the grounds for contesting a Will?

For a Will to be contested, there must be valid grounds. These grounds include:

  • Lack of testamentary capacity – When a person writes their Will, they must have the mental capacity to understand the extent of their estate, who they are naming in their Will and the overall effects of their Will. Common reasons for someone being judged to lack testamentary capacity include if they were living with dementia or the impact of a brain injury.
  • Improper execution – For a Will to be valid, there are a number of steps that must be followed. This includes having two witnesses to the signing of the Will (who must not be beneficiaries of the Will or married/in a civil partnership with a beneficiary).
  • Undue influence – If the deceased was manipulated into leaving an inheritance to a person or persons, there could be a claim. However, there must be sufficient supporting evidence.
  • Fraud and forgery – If there is sufficient proof that the Will was in any way fraudulent or forged, there could be grounds for a claim and to have the Will overturned.
  • Lack of reasonable provision – Under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, you may be able to claim that the Will does not make provision for your reasonable needs if you were normally dependent on the deceased before their death.

Who can contest a Will?

Only certain people will potentially be eligible to contest a Will. Examples of people who can contest a Will includes estate beneficiaries under the current or a past Will, family members, anyone financially dependent on the deceased, anyone owed money and anyone who was promised something by the deceased.

What is the process of contesting a Will?

Seek legal assistance

Prior to doing anything else, it’s essential to contact a Will disputes solicitor if you are deciding whether to make a claim on the estate or not. A solicitor will be able to advise you of the likelihood of your claim and aid with the process of contesting the Will.

Speak to the other people involved

Once you have spoken to a legal expert, the first step will be to contact the other people involved. This should include the Executor or administrator of the estate, current beneficiaries of the Will and anyone else who might be affected by the Will being contested.

Ideally, it will be possible to negotiate a positive resolution to the issue that everyone can agree to. This is usually in everyone’s best interests as Will dispute can be very costly and time-consuming if court proceedings are required, as well as having a high potential for causing damage to important relationships.

It can be helpful to have legal experts take part in any negotiations or you may want to handle this yourself, but you should always have legal advice first. This ensures that you know what your rights are and what you can realistically expect to achieve before entering negotiations.

Methods for resolving a Will dispute outside of court include private negotiations and mediation (where a neutral third-party helps to facilitate negotiating a resolution).

Submit a caveat

When dealing with a Will dispute, it can be helpful to prevent probate from being granted. This stops the estate being distributed before the dispute is settled. You can stop probate by ‘lodging a caveat’ at the Probate Registry office.

The caveat will last for a total of six months and can be extended where necessary. However, the person or persons administering the estate can apply to have the caveat set aside, in which case you would need to be prepared to defend your reasons for having the caveat in place.

Pursue court litigation

If you have been unable to resolve matters outside of court, then you can make a formal court claim. Court claims concerning Will disputes are split into two different categories:

  1. Contesting the validity of the Will.
  2. Claiming that the Will does not make sufficient provision for the claimant (often referred to as an ‘Inheritance Act Claim’).

How long do you have to contest a Will?

The length of time that an individual has to contest a Will entirely depends on the nature of the claim and is governed under the Limitation Act 1980.

In most cases, the time limits to contest a Will are:

  • Inheritance Act Claim – 6 months from the grant of probate
  • Estate claim by a beneficiary – 12 years from the deceased’s death
  • Fraud – there is no time limit 

Get in touch with our Will dispute resolution solicitors in East Sussex

For advice about resolving a Will dispute, contact your local Heringtons office in Battle, Bexhill on Sea, Eastbourne, Hastings or Rye.

Or fill in our online enquiry form and we will be in touch shortly.

For further information or to speak to one of our experts please call us on: