As long as there is a valid will in place, the administration of it is dealt with according to the stipulations of the deceased. In the cases where there is no will, then the intestacy rules are implemented. However, there are a rising number of cases where wills are disputed. There can be a number of reasons to contest a will, but it’s vital that you make your claim as early as possible. In the majority of cases, there is a six month period where any disputes must be filed, although there are different timescales depending on your reasons for disputing a will.
- An invalid will
There are strict guidelines in place that cover the legal and procedural requirements of a legally binding will. One of the more common will dispute cases stem from claimants who believe that the will is invalid, and that they have legitimate grounds for challenging a will. Reasons behind a will becoming invalid include:
- Non-execution of will – The Wills Act of 1837 sets out the specific legal guidelines for a will. If there are any legal errors on the documentation, a case can be made to declare a will invalid. One of the most common instances of this kind of dispute is due to a lack of signatures from the relevant witnesses and the testator.
- Fraud and Duress – If a claimant believes that a will has been drawn up under duress, or that there are instances of fraud in the final will, then they will be able to make a claim to invalidate the will.
- Testamentary Capacity – Anyone making a will must be mentally capable of doing so. This will include understanding the implications of the will that they sign. The expression ‘sound mind’ is often cited in these cases.
If you believe that a will is invalid, evidence will need to be provided. In cases of testamentary capacity, it will be up to the estate executors to establish the mental cognizance of the deceased. If the will is declared invalid, then the rules of intestacy will be implemented.
- Claims of dependency
The Provision for Family and Dependants Act 1975 covers those instances where a dependant has not received sufficient provisions in the will. If the deceased was providing for someone financially up until their death, then it is possible to claim that this was to be expected after they have died. In most dependency claims, the claimant is a spouse, a child, a cohabitee, or a close family member or friend. Courts will consider the age of the dependents, the duration and nature of the relationship with the deceased, and their expected quality of life if the deceased had not passed away. Courts may then award a lump sum or a series of maintenance payments.
- Additional disputes
If the above factors are not relevant, a will can still be changed if a claimant believes that an original will has been lost, or if property and finances have been disputed by another potential owner. These instances will require the claimant to provide evidence to start their claim.
It is essential that you seek legal representation from will dispute lawyers as early as possible if you wish to contest a will. With time limits applicable depending on the type of dispute that you wish to make, the earlier that you begin the process, the more likely that you avoid unnecessary complications to the proces