Other Legal Services

Contesting a Will

Due to increasing house prices over the years many people leave an estate that is now worth a considerable sum of money. Tensions and emotions can erupt when there are disagreements in the family about inheritance issues.

If you are a ‘disappointed beneficiary’, grief may soon give way to confusion, regret and even anger when someone you thought was close to you dies and fails to leave you anything in their will, or not as much as you thought they would.

Concerns may arise if you feel the will does not reflect the wishes of the deceased, or they were pressured to make the will or did not have sufficient mental capacity to make it. Family issues can emerge after years of resentment or simply through lack of communication.

If your challenge is successful and the will is declared invalid, the previous valid will stands in its place. If no such will exists, the rules of intestacy will apply.

In some circumstances making a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 is the best approach to take. If you are eligible to make such a claim, even though the will is valid, you may be able to argue that it does not make reasonable financial provision for you given the nature of your financial dependency upon the testator (the person who made the will) and your own financial circumstances.

Alternatively, if you relied on a promise of inheriting property to your detriment and that inheritance does not materialise in a will, you may have a claim in proprietary estoppel.

Contesting a will is emotionally challenging meaning that objective legal advice is important. We will encourage the parties to try and resolve the dispute through negotiations or mediation and avoid the need for court action if possible.

More about contesting a Will

A mistake may have been made in the drafting of a will meaning it does not properly express the wishes of the person who made it. If this mistake adversely affects you, it is possible to apply to the court for the will to be amended (known as rectification) within six months of the date of the grant of probate.

Research conducted by the Legal Services Board (LSB) shows that 20% of all wills contain mistakes that could invalidate them thanks partly to the use of DIY will kits available in supermarkets, chain stores and on the internet. While DIY will kits are probably adequate for a testator (the person making the will) with very simple affairs, they are deeply unsuitable for anyone with complicated finances, an extended family circle or a larger estate.

The Administration of Justice Act 1982 allows a will to be rectified if a court is satisfied that it does not express or carry out the testator’s true intentions. There are however only three possible grounds for the court using this power to rectify a will:

  1. There must be clear evidence that the will does not reflect the intentions of the person who made the will (the testator)
  2. There was a typographical or clerical error (e.g. inadvertently mistyping a legacy clearly intended to be £1,000 as £100)
  3. There was a failure to understand the testator’s clear instructions by whoever drew up the will

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