The death of a loved one is a difficult time for family and friends, and matters can be complicated further if there is a dispute over their will. Disputes often arise when either a beneficiary is unhappy with their share of the inheritance, or when someone is unhappy with the distribution of assets, or even the appointment of an executor. If you find yourself in this position, it’s essential to understand the legalities involved in challenging a will. Here is a comprehensive guide to get you started.
1. Grounds for contesting a will:
It’s important to first note that contesting a will is not always straightforward, and you cannot challenge a will on any grounds. For instance, you cannot challenge a will merely because you think it is unfair, or you believe you deserve more. You must have legally recognized grounds to challenge a will. These can involve claims that the deceased did not have the mental capacity to make a valid will, that the person who made the will was unduly influenced, or that the paperwork was not correctly executed.
2. Who can contest a will?
There are also specific people who are permitted to challenge a will. This can include beneficiaries of the previous will, those who believe they should have been beneficiaries, dependents of the deceased, and spouses or civil partners.
3. How to challenge a will:
The first step is to speak with a specialist probate and inheritance disputes solicitor. They can provide tailored advice on whether you have sufficient grounds for contesting the will and how to proceed next. In most cases, the solicitor will send a letter before action to the executor, informing them of your claim and providing full details. If a settlement cannot be reached, you may be required to file a claim with the court.
4. The role of the executor:
The executor is responsible for managing the estate according to the will’s terms, and they are required to comply with the probate process. If you have a dispute with the executor, it is important first to try to resolve any issues amicably if possible. If this is not possible, you may wish to seek legal advice to find out what your options are.
5. Potential outcomes:
When contesting a will, there are several outcomes that could occur. Firstly, the court could rule in your favor, and changes are made to the will. Alternatively, the court could rule against you, and the original will remains untouched. Finally, a settlement could be negotiated between the parties, which is the most common outcome.
Contesting a will is not an easy process, with many legal complexities that need to be addressed. If you find yourself in a position where you need to challenge a will, it’s imperative to seek out professional legal advice as early as possible. A specialist solicitor will be able to guide you on the best procedure to follow, the strength of your claim, and what you could expect to achieve.