If you are considering disputing the will of a loved one or relative, it is crucial that you are aware of the processes involved before you start to contest it. Whether you believe that your relative was not aware of the will, or you believe that the will is invalid, this guide will help you to traverse the often complex world of probate.
Can Probate be Contested?
Probate can be contested by the living relations of the deceased or those that have significant reason to believe that they are a beneficiary in the will, such as if a promise has been made to them by the deceased or they were a beneficiary in a previous will. However, a probate contest must fall under one of a few categories. These categories include invalidity of the will, lack of mental capacity, forgery, or undue influence.
How to Contest Probate
Contacting a Lawyer
Firstly, you should contact a lawyer to help you to build the evidence of your case and suggest whether your case is strong enough to succeed. They will also be able to help you decide on which resolution option is best for you, such as choosing to go through mediation or if you should go straight to court.
Finding Grounds and Evidence
Then, you should collect any evidence that you need to make your case and decide on the grounds on which you are contesting the will. For instance, you may have to collect evidence from a handwriting expert or discuss with a lawyer the most suitable grounds on which you are making your claim.
Firstly, many lawyers will suggest mediation with the other beneficiaries as a first step. In most cases, mediation resolves the claim, and the case does not have to continue to court. During mediation, you will hold a discussion with the other beneficiaries led by an unbiased third party trained to help you manage your disputes. They will be able to guide you to a conclusion and resolve any issues that you come across during your discussion.
Going to Court
If the case is not resolved through mediation, it will go to court, where a judge will balance the evidence and decide on who will win the case and the compensation that you will receive. Going to court can take a long time though, and you may not receive a result for a number of years if the judge is unable to make a decision. Taking your case to court is also extremely expensive, and, if you lose, you will have to pay these fees in full. However, the contesting probate time limits are strict, and you should make sure that you contest probate within six months in some cases. Although, in other circumstances, there is no time limit as to when you can contest the will.
When contesting probate, there is a number of factors which you should bear in mind before you make a claim. These will help you to know what to expect and prepare your case for the rigors of legal discussion.