Reasons to contest a will

Wills are increasingly contested by family members who feel they have been inadequately provided for. Charitable organisations have also become savvier to the financial benefits of contesting a Will where it believes it has a good case. Ronald Fletcher & Co Solicitors has a solid Contested Wills practice based on years of experience advising clients and satisfactorily resolving their claims involving Wills.

But why contest a Will? A legal challenge to a Will is often very distressing, particularly where an individual is grieving the death of a loved one. Most challenges to Wills are initiated for financial reasons, made by dependents (usually relatives who were financially supported by the deceased) that were not adequately provided for under the Will.

These are the most common reasons for contesting a Will:

  1. The Will is invalid because it was not properly executed: strict legal rules govern how a Will must be executed. For instance, it must be signed and witnessed properly by the deceased and two witnesses - neither of which should be beneficiaries under the Will nor married to a beneficiary.
  2. The testator did not have mental capacity: The law requires the testator to be sufficiently mentally capable to make a will and know what he or she was doing at the time. He or she must be of sound mind; able to identify the property and recognize who would receive the assets if there were no Will and be able to rationally plan for disposing of it in the Will. The courts have held that even bereavement can alter someone's state of mind to an extent that a Will made at such a time can be deemed invalid.
  3. Fraud or duress can invalidate the Will: Where there is evidence of forgery, fraud or undue influence from a family member it will be invalid.
  4. The Will was incorrectly drafted: Where an error is made in a Will, a beneficiary could lose out. For instance, the Will may not properly reflect the testator's true intentions because it was too vague. Where a will was not properly drafted and a beneficiary loses out, a valid claim can follow.
  5. Disputed ownership of property: The Will may make a gift to a beneficiary of property that did not legally belong to the testator. It is not uncommon for a claim to be made by a family member who contributed towards a property purchase but whose name was not registered as a co-owner. The court sometimes has to decide whether such a contribution was a gift or a loan before deciding whether an individual has a right to some of the estate.

Claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975

Where a dependant has not been adequately provided for (whether under a Will or under the statutory rules of intestacy in the absence of a Will), the law can make provision. Under the 1975 Act, a relative or other dependant, for instance someone the deceased was financially maintaining, can claim 'reasonable financial provision'. Individuals making such claims include spouses, children or individuals treated as a close family member such as a disabled friend .

If you are considering contesting a Will, take legal advice as soon as possible. Consult with the experienced Wills and Probate solicitors at Ronald Fletcher & Co for expert advice. We are well placed to advise you on whether you have legal grounds to challenge a Will and we are experienced at negotiating early settlements to avoid expensive court hearings.

For more information about this area of our practice visit our Contest Wills and contact us at 0207 624 0041.