Con­test­ing a Will - The Basics in One Minute

An experienced family lawyer posing to camera at his office.
Catrin, UK Solicitor
14/02/2024 ● 1 minutes
When someone passes away, their Last Will and Test­a­ment out­lines how they wish their estate to be dis­trib­uted. But what if something seems off? In the UK, con­test­ing a Will is a legal avenue for those who be­lieve a will does not re­flect the true in­ten­tions of the de­ceased. It's a ser­i­ous step, re­quir­ing care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion and un­der­stand­ing of the law.

Con­test­ing a Will means form­ally chal­len­ging its valid­ity in a court of law. This action is usu­ally taken when a person be­lieves the Will is unfair or has been tampered with.

Con­test­ing a Will is not about dis­agree­ment with the Will's con­tent but rather con­cerns about the cir­cum­stances under which it was cre­ated.

The UK law out­lines spe­cif­ic grounds on which a Will can be con­tested. These are lack of test­a­ment­ary ca­pa­city, undue in­flu­ence or co­er­cion, lack of proper ex­e­cu­tion and fraud or for­gery.

1) Lack of Test­a­ment­ary Ca­pa­city

The law re­quires that the person making the Will un­der­stands the nature of making a Will and its ef­fects, the extent of the prop­erty which they are dis­pos­ing of, and they must also not be af­fected by any 'dis­order of the mind' that in­flu­ences their will’s dis­pos­i­tion.

💡 For in­stance, de­mentia or severe mental ill­ness at the time of the Will's cre­ation could be grounds for con­test­ing.

Read more: Does a New Will Re­place an Old Will in the UK?

2) Undue In­flu­ence or Co­er­cion

If the will cre­ator was pres­sured or co­er­ced into sign­ing the Will, it might be con­sidered in­valid. Prov­ing this re­quires show­ing that the de­ceased was ma­nip­u­lated into making a Will that doesn’t re­flect their true in­ten­tions.

3) Lack of Proper Ex­e­cu­tion

Under UK law, a Will must be writ­ten, signed by the person making it, and wit­nessed by at least two people. Any de­vi­ations from these re­quire­ments can lead to a Will being con­tested.

Read more about Will stor­age

4) Fraud or For­gery

If there's evid­ence that the Will was forged or the person was trick­ed into sign­ing it (be­liev­ing it was an­oth­er doc­u­ment, for ex­ample), the Will can be con­tested.

💡 When writ­ing a will, make sure that your Last Will and Test­a­mente is valid and full­fils your per­son­al wishes.

Read more: Ex­ecut­or of a Will: Duties

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Who Can Con­test a Will?

In the UK, not just anyone can con­test a Will.

Typ­ic­ally, those eli­gible in­clude:

  • Im­me­di­ate family mem­bers of the de­ceased
  • Be­ne­fi­ciar­ies listed in a pre­vi­ous Will
  • De­pend­ents or others who were fin­an­cially sup­ported by the de­ceased

Read more: When a Parent Leaves Everything to One Child

The Pro­cess of Con­test­ing a Will

Con­test­ing a Will is a legal pro­cess in­volving sev­er­al steps. These steps in­clude identi­fy­ing your reason, gath­er­ing evid­ence, filing a caveat and seek­ing legal rep­res­ent­a­tion.

  1. Identi­fy Your Reason Clearly define why you be­lieve the will should be con­tested based on the legal grounds men­tioned above.  
  2. Gather Evid­ence This might in­clude medical re­cords, wit­ness state­ments, or expert testi­mony.  
  3. File a Caveat This pre­vents pro­bate from being granted until your con­test is re­solved.  
  4. Seek Legal Rep­res­ent­a­tion A so­li­citor spe­cial­iz­ing in wills and pro­bate law can guide you through the com­plex­it­ies of the pro­cess.

💡 Read more: Find a Will in the UK

Time Limits for Con­test­ing a Will

Timing is cru­cial. In gen­er­al, you have six months from the grant of pro­bate to con­test a Will.

💡 Ex­cep­tions exist, so it’s ad­vis­able to act promptly.

Pos­sible Out­comes of Con­test­ing a Will

The court might alter the dis­tri­bu­tion of the estate if your con­test is pros­per­ous. Al­tern­at­ively, dis­putes can some­times be re­solved through me­di­ation, avoid­ing court.

Con­test­ing a will in the UK re­quires a strong un­der­stand­ing of legal pro­cesses and clear evid­ence. It’s a path taken to ensure fairness and re­spect for the de­ceased's true wishes.

💡 If you find yourself in this situ­ation, seek­ing pro­fes­sion­al legal advice is the first and most im­port­ant step.

Read more: Suc­cess Rate of Con­test­ing a Will in the UK

Look­ing for Expert Advice?

If you're con­sid­er­ing con­test­ing a Will, or just want more in­form­a­tion on the pro­cess, don't hes­it­ate to reach out. Our ex­per­ts can help guide you through this chal­len­ging pro­cess.

Try out the ser­vice for free.

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