If you are a disappointed beneficiary, or you believe that you have grounds to contest a will, the results can be concerning and difficult to organise if you do not have the correct advice and knowledge behind you. However, this guide will enable you to understand the basics of challenging a will and what to do if the unfortunate circumstances arise that force you to do this.
Can You Challenge a Will?
Wills can be challenged under specific grounds. The four legal grounds for contesting a will include:
- Undue influence: The testator was influenced by a beneficiary or on a beneficiaries’ behalf to change the will in their favour, or they have influenced the testator to believe ill of another beneficiary. Sudden changes to the will can often prove this.
- Lack of capacity: The testator did not have the correct capacity to understand or have knowledge of the document they were signing. It can be due to illnesses such as dementia, or even as simple as the testator being deaf on signing the will.
- An invalid will: The will may be invalid if the signature is not valid, or if there were no witnesses to the signing of the will.
- Forgery: All or part of the will may have been forged, for instance, the signature. Forgery even includes cases in which the original will has been lost or replaced unnecessarily.
However, you may also be able to challenge a will if you were a beneficiary in a previous will, or if you were financially dependent on the testator and provision was not made for you and your family. You can also challenge executor of the will if you believe that they have been mismanaging the estate in the testator’s name.
How to Challenge a Will
You should seek immediate legal advice from a lawyer as to whether your evidence is strong enough to file an official claim, and they can also give you legal advice on the best way to enact this. Then, you should file a complaint to the probate court before the correct time limits, which can be between six months and 12 years depending on your circumstances and the nature of your claim.
Who can Challenge a Will?
You can challenge the will if you are a spouse, a former spouse or a partner who has been co-inhabiting with the deceased for over two years. You can also contest a will if you are a blood relation or someone considered a relation by the testator, such as an adoptee, a beneficiary, a beneficiary in a previous will or someone who has reason to believe that the testator promised them a gift before their passing. You can also challenge the will if you are a disinherited heir or relation such as a sibling or child, as you may still have legal claims over their property and possessions in these cases.
Although challenging a will can be a distressing time for families, there are many grounds in which you can contest a will if you are related or have reason to believe that the will is not valid.