Contesting a Will

Legal advice to support a fairer resolution for you
Personal law wills


Experts in contesting wills

Our expert team can help you navigate your claim and pursue a fairer outcome for you.

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Managing Partner
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Who can challenge a will

Who can challenge a will?

The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 sets out who may challenge a will or intestacy. According to the Act, there are a wide range of people who may be able to apply to the court for financial provision.

For more on this, as well as advice on how to contest a will, our Essex-based solicitors have broken down the key facts you need to know so you get a clearer idea if and how you can mount a legal challenge.

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I was financially dependent on the deceased but not named as a beneficiary

If you are financially dependent on the deceased, or if you share responsibility for a dependent child of the deceased, you may be in a position to successfully dispute the will. For example, you may have had a child with the deceased, and then the deceased went on to have a second family while making child maintenance payments to you.

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Can an executor contest a will?

If a person named as an executor wishes to contest the will, they are entitled to do so. However, given the obvious conflict of interest (between administering the estate and challenging it), they must usually entirely relinquish the role of executor prior to carrying out any of their duties (if they don’t, then they may be deemed to have “intermeddled” in the estate).

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I am a relative of the deceased. If there is no will, am I entitled to a share of the estate?

If the deceased has actually left a will that does not name you as one of the beneficiaries, and there are no legal grounds to contest the will, then there is no automatic entitlement to a share in the estate.

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What are the grounds for contesting a will

What are the grounds for contesting a will?

If you feel aggrieved, either on your own behalf or on someone else’s, you may consider contesting the will. There are various reasons for contesting a will, but the first thing you will want to establish in this situation is what, if any, grounds you may have on which to mount a legal challenge.

Essentially, there are two main types of challenge – either the will is not valid for one or more of the six reasons below, or the will is valid but can still be challenged.

Lack of testamentary capacity

Contesting a will on the grounds that that the testator (the person writing the will) did not have testamentary capacity is essentially claiming that they did not have sufficient understanding of the process owing to poor mental health or compromised cognitive or sensory abilities.

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Lack of valid execution

This claim relies on demonstrating that the will is not valid because of circumstances surrounding the preparation and signing of the will, i.e. that they did not satisfy all the necessary criteria for the creation of a valid will.

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Lack of knowledge & approval

For a will to be valid, the testator must have knowledge of the contents, and approve of the terms of the will. A lack of knowledge or approval is therefore grounds to contest the will.

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Undue influence

This challenge to a will would be to demonstrate that a third party had put significant pressure on the individual who made the will (which can be emotional, verbal, physical or financial pressure). 

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Fraudulent & forged wills

As you would expect, a fraudulent or forged will is of course invalid. This could be because someone has forged the testator’s signature in order to benefit themselves or others. In this case, the circumstances around the signature would have to be investigated.

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Rectification & construction claims

If an error was made during the preparation of a will that results in it failing to achieve the testator’s intended outcomes, then it can be challenged via a rectification claim. 

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Can I change a will made by a testator who now lacks mental capacity?

A will can be changed, before the death of the testator, if they now lack mental capacity and if you feel that the existing will does not uphold the wishes of the testator or it does not take account of everything it should in the current circumstances. 

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The process of contesting a will

The process of contesting a will

The process that a Giles Wilson solicitor will go through with you as a client will involve a consultation, followed by any urgent interim legal action that’s necessary.

This may be followed by the lodging of a caveat or urgent court action, followed by attempting resolution through negotiation or mediation (where appropriate), and as a last resort, court proceedings.

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How much money does it take to contest a will in the UK?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Each case is different, so each case will have different costs associated with it. However, there are responsible measures you can take to limit the costs you may be exposed to.

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How long do you have to contest a will?

It’s important to act quickly if you intend to challenge a will, for a couple of reasons:

Firstly, it is preferable to start proceedings before grant of probate as contesting a will after probate means that the executor may have started distributing the estate. This may result in difficulties recovering any assets that may have to be redistributed as a result of the challenge.

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Disputes involving an executor

Disputes involving an executor

Beyond the content or validity of the will, you may be experiencing other hurdles that are preventing you from receiving the inheritance that you are entitled to.

Contentious issues may arise if executors, the individuals responsible for dealing with the estate, cause delays, fail to take action, do not behave prudently or act fraudulently.

The rising trend in disputes with executors

We are seeing a rise in instances of disputes between beneficiaries and executors, possibly in connection with the rising trend for non-professionals to handle the probate administration.

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Understanding the executor’s task

An executor may appear negligent simply because they have seriously underestimated the scale and complexity of the task before them. There can be a lot of arduous administration and intricate financial work to be carried out during the probate process, particularly when it’s hard to locate the relevant documents, or if the estate is large or complicated.

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Resolving a dispute with an executor

Only when a sympathetic and communicative approach is exhausted, or if it transpires that the executor is either out of their depth or acting in a deliberately and maliciously obstructive way, is it worth considering legal action.

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Grants of probate and caveats

When the testator passes away, the executor(s) named in their will applies for a grant of probate. The grant of probate empowers the testator to act legally on the deceased’s behalf in order to administer their estate.

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Challenging a caveat

The would-be executor is not without recourse. If he or she does not wish to wait for six months in the hope that the caveat lapses, they can mount a challenge. Initially, the would-be executor issues a warning to the caveator of the impending challenge. 

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Can I access the will while the executor is administering the estate?

Being denied access to a will can be unsettling, but prior to grant of probate, the executor is under no obligation to let you see the will.

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The expertise of our solicitors is regularly recognised by some of the profession’s most distinguished organisations. As well as being a member of a number of Law Society schemes, we have won awards at the Law Society Excellence Awards, the Halsbury Legal Awards and the Modern Law Awards.

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