How Long Does it Take For a Will Contest to be Resolved?

The grievance process is difficult enough, but it can be made significantly longer if a will dispute is needed. Many loved ones may be hurt and angry if they feel as though they have not been adequately covered in a final testament, which then leads to a will being contested. Which begs a common question: How Long does it take for a will contest to be resolved?

Our solicitors at The Inheritance Experts are experts in the area of will contesting: contact us for legal advice if you believe a will should be contested, whether it is on behalf of yourself or someone else.

What it Means to Contest a Will

Contesting a will means that a party close to the deceased feels as though they disagree with how the assets have been shared out within a will, such as not feeling as though they have received what they are fairly owed, or due to negligent behaviour.

Grounds to contest a will include:

  • Fraudulent wills
  • Forged wills
  • A lack of knowledge
  • Testamentary capacity
  • Lack of valid execution

In order to contest a will, the individual needs to have the legal right to do so. That means that contesting can only be made by the following:

  • A spouse
  • Direct family members
  • Beneficiaries
  • An individual who relied on the deceased for financial reasons
  • A creditor to whom the testator was in debt to
  • An individual promised an asset by the testator, but did not receive it in the will

How Long You Can Expect the Process to Take

Contesting a will relies on time, both with a time limit to submit your case, and then the time frame you can expect to wait following the opening of the case.

How Long Does it Take For a Will Contest to be Resolved? The Time Limit

You have until the executor starts distributing the testator’s assets in accordance with their Final Will and Testament, after the grant of probate. Sometimes, it’s possible to submit a claim after the commencement of distribution. Therefore, it’s advisable to do it beforehand to make for an easier process.

As with anything, as soon as possible is always beneficial, and the earlier you begin, the more likely it will be that you succeed.

The only time that experts don’t advise an exact time limit is with a case of fraud, wherein you would have as long as is necessary.

The Expected Time Frame after Commencing the Case

In short, don’t expect the process to be a quick one.

Firstly, the best way to resolve the dispute is via the means of mediation, which can be a long process. There is always the risk that mediation may not be successful. In turn, the contesting of a will then require court proceedings.

From then on, there is no designated time frame regarding how long the court may take to make a decision: it may take a few months, but it could take anything up to a few years. It also depends on the complications the case presents: do bear in mind that every case is unique.

Therefore you should expect the overall process to take a couple of years, and anything less will be an advantage.

Poll Shows Millions Would Dispute a Will if Unhappy with Result

A poll of British people reveals millions would dispute a will if unhappy with result of the awarding of assets went down. The poll by Direct Line Life Insurance found that over 12.6 million British people would challenge a will in court.

  • Especially if the division of assets was inappropriate.
  • Even if the testator’s will was current and clear.

This finding is particularly interesting when we consider that around half don’t write a will at all. They don’t because they presume that their assets will automatically go to their spouse, partner or children by default.

Why Some Would Dispute a Will if Unhappy with Result

However, complications arise with:

  • multiple marriages,
  • half-siblings,
  • non-traditional families and;
  • couples free of weddings who live together.

Some people fail to update their will and sometimes a main benefactor may already be gone themselves. There were over 8,100 applications to contest wills in 2017, a 6% increase over 12 months. These ‘grants of probate’ cost £20 to file. That means British people spent £160,000 in one year on raising issues with wills.

According to a family solicitors, the most common reason for contesting a will in the UK is that the testator was under ‘undue influence’. In essence, someone faces pressure to sign a will which did not necessarily represent their true wishes. These petitions are not often successful: the challenger needs to provide a high level of proof.

Wills can also face challenges on the grounds of ‘testamentary capacity.’ In short, the legal and mental ability of a person to alter or make their will is in doubt.

There are also ‘rectification and construction’ claims that face contesting. This is the claim that a clerical error was made when drafting the will, and it didn’t truly reflect the testator’s wishes.

Business manager at Direct Line life insurance, Jane Morgan, says:

‘While people are increasingly contesting wills, everyone has the right to choose how they’d like to distribute their assets. Even if it seems unusual or excludes even the closest family members. People can be surprised and hurt by the contents of a will. So people may wish to discuss with beneficiaries and those that might think they would inherit. How they plan to distribute their assets.’

The difficulties of when you dispute a will

Unfortunately, the issue of money and trust is often problematic before death. A recent study reveals only half of adults would trust a family member to manage their finances if they could no longer do it themselves. A study by a legal service also found that over 33% don’t have a family member we would trust to take care of our affairs. Essentially, we don’t believe our family can manage our own money when we can’t do it ourselves.

It’s therefore even more surprising to learn that nearly 80% of those aged over 45 do not have a lasting power of attorney (LPA). This legal document identifies the people they would prefer to manage their affairs when they are no longer able to. Over 41 million people believe that they do not need an LPA as their loved ones would be automatically able to make decisions on their behalf if they could not.

Would you dispute a will if unhappy with results? We can help. If you’d like to discuss an inheritance issue or feel the effects of this story, reach out to us. It’s in your best interest to get in contact with us at The Inheritance Experts where we can discuss your issue or requirement.

Seeing someone contest a will

In most circumstances, the Last Will and Testament is the paramount document. But to witness someone contest a will, you’ll encounter someone lobbying a serious challenge to the management of assets in an estate. A will, in summary, is the document that determines how to divide an estate and ensures they carry out testator’s wishes.

However, there are still instances where someone contests a will. Though these contentious probate situations are rare, they do occur. As FT Adviser states:

There is no doubt that society has become more aware of the ability to challenge a will. (According) to court statistics, (they’re) more willing to see a challenge through to what is, inevitably, a bitter ending at trial.

Watching Someone Contest a Will: How Do They Do It?

Somone can contest a legal document like a will for only a few reasons. One of the most prominent reasons to contest a will is because there is evidence of fraud. Perhaps they had dementia during their last codicil*, or perhaps there was a falsification of the signature.

Other reasons why a will can be contested is if a named beneficiary doesn’t receive anything in the will, or if the contester financially relied on the deceased but not explicitly named (for example, a previous spouse who relied on childcare support).

Claims under The Inheritance Provision for Family and Dependants Act 1975 is the key bit of legislation enabling claims. If you choose to undertake it, no win no fee solicitors are the way to go if you want to avoid unnecessary legal costs. Simply come to a fee agreement with your lawyer at the start in the case of a win, and you won’t even pay if you’re the losing party.

Who Can Contest a Will?

It’s important when reading this to remember that not everyone can contest a will, however. The only ones who can are:

  • Blood relatives;
  • Spouses;
  • Creditors;
  • Someone who is a beneficiary beforehand but left out later on;
  • A person who relies financially on the testator, or;
  • Someone who receives a promise of a gift either verbally or otherwise that was forgotten in the will.

What Happens When Someone Contests a Will?

It’s crucial to bear in mind that there are time limits to contesting a will.

  • If your name is not in the will, you have within 6 months of the grant of probate to contest.
  • Additionally, you have up to 12 years to contest it if your name is in the will.
  • Moreover, if the reason to contest a will is due to fraud, there are no time limits.

Build the Case

When contesting a will, there are a few steps to take. The first is to build evidence. This means proving either:

  • Fraud;
  • Promises made by the testator;
  • Undue influence over the testator;
  • Diminished mental capacity during signing;
  • Debts that the testator owes, or;
  • Proof of financial reliance.

File Your Case with the Probate Registry

Once you have the case, you will need to file it with the probate registry. Such a case filing is through a document known as a caveat. Ideally, you’ll issue this before probate, as it stops the issuance of probate.

Negotiate

Working with The Inheritance Experts gives you access to expert negotiators working on your behalf when contesting the will.

Most solicitors try to resolve the issue out of court so that all parties can leave with an agreeable settlement. This process can take a long time, even up to a year or more.

Settle

In some instances, parties settle the case out of court. Though the person who contests the will likely won’t receive the full sum, this is the best way to settle the matter. Particularly in a way wherein most parties agree and everyone goes home a winner.

FINAL RESORT: Go to Court

If negotiations fail when someone contests a will, the issue can go to court. This is the worst-case scenario and only occurs with the most extreme cases.

Contesting a will is a long process, especially with financial provisions and potential court proceedings. But it’s important to get a solicitor on board you feel like:

  • you face an unfair exclusion from the will;
  • are a creditor, or;
  • you believe there was an occurrence of fraud.

Hire professionals to build your case and fight for you so that you have the greatest chance of success. For casing like those unduly influenced or any other grounds to contest and legally challenge the validity of the will, top legal advice is essential.

Footnotes
All UK Written Wills
No Win No Fee*

*A codicil is an official name for updates to the will.

Should You Contest a Will?

Be honest: should you contest a will? In short, it’s worth doing if you know the right way to approach it.

Because with the death of a family member, the last thing on your mind is the will. You have to deal with the grief, the loss, the funeral, and so much more.

If a will does grab your attention, you hope a family member sets something aside for you. But if it’s contrary to what you expect, you might want to consider contesting it.

What is a Will?

A last will and testament is the only way a person can explicitly state how they wish their estate to be given away at the time of their death. It could explain things like:

  • where the money goes to;
  • who should take care of children who are under the age of 18.

If there are issues with a Will and a reason to contest it, an inquiry will open. This inquiry is actually known as a probate.

The reason why wills are so important is that, if there is no will, it is the government that decides who gets what. This can mean adult children get nothing and the spouse gets everything. Or it could mean that the testator’s lifetime partner gets nothing due to their being no marriage.

Who Can Contest a Will?

Only a few people can go about contesting a will. The spouse, child, cohabitee (lifetime partner) or another person with an explicit mention in the will can go about learning how to contest a will and make a case.

On What Grounds Can You Contest a Will?

There are four main grounds under which you can appeal a will. Perhaps you believe that the testator wasn’t healthy enough or of sound mind to create a Will. Or if they require ’round-the-clock care, for example, when the last Will was made. Certainly then, there is reason to doubt its validity.

Other grounds include a lack of proper execution. It needs a signature, for example, with two formal witnesses. But if their lawyers act as their witness, it could be hard to contest. On the other hand, if there is doubt in the process, an earlier version of the will might become valid.

Of course, suspected fraud or coercion is always a reason to contest a will. These are fraudulent activities, though they can be difficult to prove.

What is the Time Limit?

When it comes to contesting a will, the sooner the better. Because there is a time limit to contest a will.

In general, you’ll have six months to contest a will. The only real example of when you don’t need to challenge a will within six months is if you gain evidence of fraud.

So serious is this allegation that fraud is always a reason to contest a Will and thus, has no time limit.

Yet with fraud, you generally want to contest the Will before the recipient and perpetrator spends your inheritance. This can only be done if you have proof.

How Can you Contest a Will?

You can contest a will easily with the right grounds, evidence, and help from contentious probate solicitors for cases such as yours. To contest a will today, get in touch with us and we will work out the likelihood your case has of winning.

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