How to Contest a Will

If you are considering contesting the will of a relative, it is vital that you are aware of the processes before you start to contest it. That’s true whether you believe that

  • the will is unfair;
  • it isn’t legally valid, or;
  • the testator suffers from undue pressure into making certain people beneficiaries.

This guide will help you to navigate the often complex world of contesting probate.

Contesting a will or contesting the process of probate when a will is valid can only be done by certain people. These people include the testator’s

  • living relatives;
  • those who were a beneficiary in a previous will, and;
  • those with significant reason to believe they’re a beneficiary in the latest will. For instance, if a promise has been made to the person by the deceased.

In addition, a contest of probate must also fall under one of a few categories. These categories include:

It is also important to remember that the time limits for contesting probate are strict. Therefore, you should make sure that you contest the will or the probate process within six months in some cases. However, in some circumstances, there is no time limit as to when you can contest the will.

How to Contest a Will

Contacting a specialist solicitor

If you are considering contesting a will, it is important to find out whether you have a viable claim. This is where The inheritance Experts come in – one of our advisors will speak to you on a free, no-obligation basis and will advise you whether you have a valid claim that has a good chance of success depending upon the facts.

Finding Grounds and Evidence

So, you have a claim that potentially has a good chance of success and you choose to go forth. We’ll put you in touch with a specialist solicitor with experience in wills and probate cases. They’ll also have a track record in achieving positive results for their clients.

Together, you will collect any evidence that you need to make your case. Subsequently, your solicitor will advise you what the best grounds are to contest the will.

Mediation

Once this is done, most solicitors will suggest mediation with the other beneficiaries. Often, this is the best possible first step to attempt to resolve the dispute.

During mediation, you will hold a discussion with the other beneficiaries. A third party without bias leads the discussion, helping you manage your disputes. This is with the aim of resolving any existing issues, any further issues that arise during the discussions and, ultimately, guiding all of the beneficiaries to a conclusion that everyone is happy with. In many cases, mediation will resolve the claim, and the case will not need to continue.

Going to Court

If there’s no resolution through mediation though, it will go to a probate court. There, a judge will balance the evidence and decide the merits of each beneficiaries’ claim. Also, they’ll consider the wishes the testator expresses in their will.

Going to court can be a long and costly process though, and you may not receive a result for a number of years if the judge is unable to make a decision. As we say, the case progressing to court is also extremely expensive. Moreover, if you lose, you may have to pay the other beneficiaries’ legal fees in full.

How to contest a will with our help

At The Inheritance Experts, we work with specialist law firms who have a proven track record in handling wills and probate disputes. This means they are well-placed to help you get the proportion of the estate you are entitled to.

If you believe you have grounds to contest a will and want to know if you have a realistic claim, do not hesitate to get in touch with The Inheritance Experts via the contact form on our website or by calling 0161 413 8763.

Writing a Will: A Checklist

A Will writing checklist is a great thing to have for the Do It Yourself type.

Though you can make updates to your will, and if circumstances change a lot, you can make a new will entirely, it is best to know what to include from the start. This will simplify the process and ensure that your will is carried out as efficiently and as effectively as possible.

Your official Will writing checklist

Find Any Previous Wills

If you have any previous wills, you will want to locate them. You can then create a new will, but be sure to account for any previous editions, too.

Up-To-Date Personal Details

When creating your will (or updating it), you will want to ensure that all of your personal details are correct, up to date, and free of spelling errors.

Choose Your Beneficiaries

The next step is to choose your beneficiaries. Go through the list carefully to ensure that you don’t forget to include some people. You can name people to split up your estate to, and who to give special gifts to.

Make Special Decisions for Children

If you have children under the age of 18 or similar responsibilities, you will then want to outline who you want to take care of them.

Please know that this shouldn’t be a surprise. so gain confirmation from your friends or family. Then include that agreement in the will so that there is no reason to contest the issue.

Make a Note of Your Debts

When creating your will, it is important to work out your debts. If you have debts, these will be taken from your estate first. You can even write out a clause that states you wish the executor to sell your home. Accordingly, to pay off debts and to distribute other assets to your beneficiaries.

Tip: Work with The Inheritance Experts to work out how to minimise the impact of the Inheritance Tax.

Make Funeral Arrangements

With any will writing checklist, you also need to consider the inevitable.

To this end, you should work out funeral arrangements in advance. This way, you can ensure they carry out the wishes of your will. Moreover, you show you intend to pay for it (rather than forcing the family to bear the brunt).

Choose How You Wish to Divide Your Estate

Great: now you know how you intend to deal with debts and funeral costs. Furthermore, you will want to outline how you wish to divide your estate.

Make Provisions

It is also important to make provisions. If all your beneficiaries die before you, for example, you can name a charity to donate your estate to.

You can also add additions that explicitly exclude people who would otherwise have a reason to contest your will.

Make a Lasting Power of Attorney

To ensure your will is carried out, you’ll want to give your will a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA for short).

Store Your Will Safely

Last but not least you will want to store your will, any previous editions of your will and all codicils of the will safely. This way, there is no doubt as to which will is the one your executors are to carry out.

Though you can create a Will and Testament on your own, it is always best to create it with The Inheritance Experts. Thus, you ensure that your will is carries out correctly.

What are the Duties of an Executor of a Will?

When a member of the family dies, it can leave you lost. If they left behind a Last Will and Testament, however, it provides a guideline on what to do to settle their estate. If you give an executor duties over the estate (which you can be even if you are a beneficiary named in the will), they can carry out the will and to settle all debts.

With the help of a solicitor and any of the other executors, you can get through this process easily. In doing so, you can provide the testator one last service by seeing out their final wishes.

What is an Executor?

First, an executor may or may not be a beneficiary of the will in question. But in essence, their job is to carry out the Last Will and Testament of the testator. There can be up to four executors chosen so that you can share in the responsibility. In general, one executor is usually chosen to carry out these duties.

A long list of executor duties

In short, the actual responsibilities include the following executor duties we list below.

Probate

In essence, the executor will apply for probate. This will give you the legal right to manage the testator’s estate in their stead and carry out their will as outlined in their Last Will and Testament. It is usually only necessary to apply for probate* if the estate is worth more than £5,000.

Acquire the Will

You will need to acquire all versions of the will including any codicils made to the Will. Though the only Will necessary to execute is the final version, it is crucial to have all versions on hand. Once you have this Will, you’ll want to create copies for both the government and the beneficiaries.

Arrange the Funeral

If the Will outlines funeral arrangements, it’s important to follow those through. If the testator works out a method of payment (either from their own account or through an insurance plan), you can then obtain the fees to pay for the funeral so that the family doesn’t face unnecessary costs.

Secure the Deceased’s Assets

Learn what assets the testator has. This means collecting all belongings, properties, businesses, shares, and savings.

Evaluate Estate

For any item/property with a monetary value greater in value than £500, it’s essential to get a professional evaluation. If there’s

  • no one living at the property of the testator, and;
  • the property was in their name;

you have two critical bodies to notify.

  • The insurance company and;
  • The government.

That way, the deed goes into the name of the estate until selling on passing it on, per requirements.

Notify Creditors and Government of Death

This is as part of the government notifications you need to make. You’ll want to notify creditors, subscription agencies, and the government of the testator’s passing.

Close Their Accounts

In short, the executor can close all the testator’s accounts, including pension and subscriptions.

Pay Off Debts

Executors pay off the testator’s remaining debts and any taxes on the estate. Only settling these amounts can the remaining amount go to the beneficiaries.

If their estate is not enough to carry out the debt, then the beneficiaries receive nothing.

Distribute Remaining Estate to Beneficiaries

sSupposing that there is money or property left, distribute it accordingly amongst the beneficiaries.

Can You Claim Expenses For Executor Duties?

In short, yes: you can claim expenses as part of your executor duties.

Can You Have a Solicitor Help You With Executor Duties?

Yes, and in fact, you should find a specialist in this field if you lack the experience. It’s best to hire The Inheritance Experts to help you through this process.

Footnotes
All UK Written Wills
No Win No Fee*

*This means you need to file the PA1 and inheritance IHT form and pay a £200-£215 fee)

Write Your Own Will and Testament: A Guide

Think you’re ready to write your own will? In short, everyone should have an official Last Will and Testament. It’s the only way to ensure estate receive proper management, rather than the court deciding on who gets what owing to a few outdated parameters. Your children, for example, wouldn’t get anything from your estate if you have a surviving spouse or civil partner.

Having a will means that your wishes on how your estate is shared are honoured. Difficult estates and wills, by contrast, require the advice of The Inheritance Experts. But if your estate (the total value of all your assets) is small and your will is straightforward in nature, you can write your own will.

To do that effectively, you’ll want to follow this guide.

Write Your Own Will: Evaluate Your Estate

The first step to write your own will is to evaluate your estate. This means determining the total value of all you have, both in terms of liquidated assets and in terms of personal belongings. You can bequeath your beneficiaries items like furniture or jewellery, or you can give your beneficiaries a monetary amount.

When evaluating your estate, it is crucial to estimate your debt. All debts and taxes must be paid before the beneficiaries can get access to your account.

Set Out Who You Want in Your Will

The next step is to set out who you want in your will. Include details like who should take care of your children if they are under the age of 18, and who you intend to name an executor. Executors are the ones who carry out your will. You can name up to four.

You should also make exceptions. For example, if all of the beneficiaries you name die before you, you can donate your estate to a charity of your choice.

Explain Who Gets What

In essence, you set out who gets what. Ideally, take into account your debts and inheritance tax before you do this.

What if You Want to Update Your Will?

Codicils are official updates to a will. If the changes you want to make are complicated, however, it is best to create a new will. Generally speaking, you should update or at least check over your will every five or so years. If a significant change in your life has happened (like a grandchild), then update as soon as possible.

When You Write Your Own Will, Ensure It’s Valid

You will also want to make sure your will is legal and valid. Generally speaking, ensure you’re of a sound mind; over the age of 18, and do it in the presence of two witnesses who are not beneficiaries of your will.

When You Should Get Expert Advice

If your estate has multiple complications to sort out, it’s wise to contact The Inheritance Experts. Not only will this make your Last Will and Testament more explicit, but it also helps deal with complicated estates (perhaps you own a summer property in another country).

Store Your Will

You will want to pay either The Inheritance Experts or another official entity to safely and professionally store your will.

What is Litigation? How Does It Affect You?

So: what is litigation, exactly. In the world of law, there are a lot of different words that spring up from cases and regulations. To the layperson, these can make the proceedings incredibly difficult to follow. The law is an accumulation of over hundreds of years and takes specialist knowledge to successfully work through.

That is why if you want to make a claim or force someone to do something legally, you’ll need to hire a lawyer. The process the lawyer will go through for your case is the litigation process.

What is Litigation?

As we say, litigation is, in fact, a process. It has also been referred to as dispute resolution, which might help you understand more of what litigation is. In essence, litigation can help a client resolve a dispute they have within the bounds of the law. If you are a landlord who wishes to evict a tenant, then you will need to use litigation to do it.

The same applies if you wanted to pursue legal action against an organisation or business. It applies to any commercial transaction. Litigation can cover contract issues, fraud complains, mergers, and so much more.

It is not just a lawsuit.

What is the Difference Between This and Lawsuit?

A lawsuit is part of a litigation, but the latter does not always mean there will be a lawsuit. In fact, we resolve many issues without the need for a lawsuit. Instead, simple threatening legal action does the job.

Why Would You Need Litigation?

Litigation refers to the entire process a lawyer will go through to help you reach your goals. Again, most litigations don’t involve a courtroom trial, as most reach settlement first. Even if a trial does occur, appeals can be made. In turn, that’s why there is the post-trial litigation process.

What are the Steps of a Litigation?

There are several steps with this type of court action, which we list below.

Litigation Before Lawsuit

When you hire a litigator, you open up a case. This step is key, as it allows the lawyer to collect or to look at the evidence. They will collect enough evidence to compel the party to comply with the plaintiff’s demands.

Pre-Suit Negotiation

The next step will be to create a demand letter. This letter attempts to convince the defendant to comply with the plaintiff’s demands. For example, it could demand the defendant pay an invoice in full. The benefits of settling it before a lawsuit goes forth are monetary: in short, lawsuits are costly for both sides.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

The next step before a full-blown lawsuit is Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). An ADR takes place in front of an independent attorney or a panel. It is much cheaper than a trial. The mediator will then work out a settlement.

The Lawsuit

The next step, if the issue hasn’t been resolved, is the lawsuit.

Discovery

Once a lawsuit is filed the discovery period begins, where both parties exchange evidence.

Motion Practice

This is an attempt to forgo the trial. The issue can be settled within the court.

Trial

If that doesn’t work, the case is taken to trial.

Post-Trial Litigation

Trial decisions can be appealed, so this bit is essential to officially close the case.

Understanding the Laws Surrounding Wills

The best thing you can do for your loved ones is to create a last will and testament. This is the only way to ensure that the people who matter most to you get what you want to give them. But what of the true understanding of the laws surrounding wills?

Fact is, if you do not write one, your estate and belongings will be divvied up according to the court. If you want to give one child your home, you need a will to explicitly say so.

It is ideal for those who have children to have a last will and testament drawn up immediately. In turn, this reduces the number of will disputes and to ensure your wishes are kept. Though you can do this on your own, to ensure its legality you will want to hire a solicitor to have this done for you. You can then pay for a service so they keep your will in a safe location until the time comes.

What is the Last Will and Testament?

The last will and testament is a legally binding document. In short, it explains how you wish your estate to be divided among family, friends and others. Usually, only after the settlement of all debts will assets be given out. Therefore, be sure to accounts for costs first.

What Happens if There is No Will?

If there is no will then it is the government who decides on who gets what. For example, if the late party’s assets total less than £250,000, then the entire amount goes to the surviving spouse or civil partner. If it is more than £250,000, then the spouse or civil partner will receive money, and the surviving children will receive a share of the estate. Siblings, however, can get a share of the estate.

What Happens if There Are Multiple Wills?

There are multiple wills only because the deceased created updated versions. Unless there is a reason to doubt the testamentary capacity at the time of the final will, the last version is the one that will be used.

What Does a Will Need to be Binding?

The laws surrounding wills and testaments dictate that there are a few necessary matters that make them legally binding. Creating a will on your own does not automatically make it legally binding, which is why all wills need:

  1. Testamentary Capacity of the testator.
  2. Proof that the will’s signing comes without duress or mistake.
  3. The signing of the will comes with valid witnesses who co-sign.
  4. Must take place through a proper ceremony.

Testamentary Capacity refers to the frame of mind that the deceased was in at the time of making the will. They must know that they are updating their will, know the full extent of their estate, understand what they want. Also, they cannot be coerced to update their will in any way.

How to Contest a Will

Contesting a will is possible if you are a spouse, child, or live with the deceased. Challenging a will is also possible if you have been named in the will. If the deceased was not in the right frame of mind or not well enough to contest a will, a previous edition might be used. There might have been issues with the execution as well, or you might have proof that the will was created fraudulently or under coercion.

How to Ensure Your Will is Valid

There are a number of reasons to write a will, and also ensure that will is valid. This legally binding document will help you to determine what happens to your estate should you pass away. In turn, you can effectively pass on your property, money, and personal possessions to your loved ones or a charity.

Moreover, a valid will ensures you do not pay far more inheritance tax monies than necessary.

However, to legally execute a will, you must adhere to a number of strict rules stated in Section 9 of the Wills Act 1837. Read our legal advice below on how to ensure your will is valid.

How to Write a Valid Will

A failure to write a valid document could potentially provide people with grounds for challenging a will. To avoid inheritance disputes and ensure a will is legally valid, the testator must:

  • Firstly, be 18 years of age or over.
  • Second, the testator has to be of sound mind.
    • There are many different terms for this, including the testator’s “testamentary capacity” at the time, or;
    • Alternatively, the testator “has sufficient mental capacity.”
  • Third, have voluntarily wrote the will.
  • Fourth, do so in the presence of two witnesses over 18 years old.
  • Finally, two witnesses must co-sign the will in their presence.

A Will is Valid When It Is In Writing

To deem a will legally valid, it must be handwritten in either pencil or ink. Additionally, it can be typewritten into electronic format, so long as it adheres to the above rules.

If you choose to handwrite a will, write it with ink to ensure it avoids amending or contesting. Otherwise, a challenger might state a testator wasn’t certain about a section of a will, so wrote it in pencil.

Consequently, ensure the family won’t struggle with inheritance disputes following your death by writing the document in ink.

The Signing of a Will

It is imperative that two witnesses watch a testator sign a will. If one or both witnesses do not watch the signing, the will isn’t legally valid, and it could provide others with grounds for challenging a will. For this reason, the witnesses must know their role is to watch you sign the document to ensure its validity.

Also, it’s clear that they do not need to know your wishes within the document. Yet, as they witness you doing it, they must be aware that they are watching the signing of your will. Furthermore, they need to declare their presence by both signing their signature.

Additionally, a testator must be witness to that action.

Who Can Be a Witness?

When it comes to signing and witnessing, there are currently no rules regarding who can be a witness for the signing of a will. However, the person you choose must be aged 18 or over and cannot be blind. They also do not need to be a professional or possess any qualifications.

However, to prevent inheritance disputes from arising, avoid choosing a beneficiary, executor or blood relation to be a witness. Good examples of independent witnesses include a neighbour, colleague, or GP.

If, however, you believe you have grounds for challenging a will, contact The Inheritance Experts today.

0161 413 8763

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