The death of a loved one raises many complex, and often difficult, emotional and practical matters. Unfortunately, these can easily cause disagreements. There may be ambiguities in a Will that lead to different interpretations, an argument over the valuation of the deceased’s estate or uncertainty as to whether it is being administered properly. Whether these disagreements are between beneficiaries, surviving family members and friends, the deceased’s creditors or those responsible for the administration of the deceased’s estate (the executors), it’s vital to get specialist legal advice early on.
At Shaye Chapman Lawyers our tenacious lawyers have vast experience assisting clients resolve inheritance disputes. Our aim is to help them achieve the best possible outcome – we do this by using our extensive negotiating and advocacy skills, coupled with vast knowledge of the law and procedure, to design a case winning, tailor-made, strategy. We always aim to resolve inheritance disputes as quickly as possible and, if court action is unavoidable, our specialist litigators are ready to fight for our clients’ best interests.
Contesting a Will
The courts are broadly reluctant to interfere with the contents of wills, owing to their important status as legal documents that communicate our last wishes. However, it is also recognised that there are certain situations where it may be necessary to examine and overturn a will, particularly if it is evident that the will doesn’t truly reflect the deceased’s intentions.
For example, there can be many pressures put on the elderly to create a will that is partial or to change a fair one into one that no longer seems so. Not only can friends and relatives exert influence, but also charities have come under criticism over the pressure they can bring to bear on donors.
It is hardly surprising, therefore, that when the ‘final will and testament’ of many deceased people is revealed, its content can come as something of a shock, and hardly a day goes by without a story in the press concerning a dispute involving a will.
In such circumstances, it may be possible to challenge a will, provided allegations or claims are supported by strong evidence. Below we provide a brief outline of the legal grounds for contesting a will. If you require assistance to resolve an inheritance dispute, whether bringing an action or defending against one, please contact our specialist contentious wills and probate solicitors.
When Can You Dispute a Will?
There are four principal reasons why a will may be able to be successfully overturned:
- The will has been improperly executed
- The testator does not have ‘legal mental capacity’
- The will was written as a result of ‘undue influence’
- The will makes inadequate provision
What Happens if the Will is Voided?
If a will is declared void by the court, the last valid will written by the deceased will be admitted to probate. If there is no such will, the laws of intestacy will apply.
It is not uncommon for disputes to arise between beneficiaries and executors over the way the deceased’s estate is being managed. Whatever stage the administration is at, if these relate to serious acts or omissions, it may be necessary to bring or defend an application before the court in order to resolve the dispute. For example:
- if an executor is failing to keep proper accounts or mismanaging the deceased’s assets, it’s vital to take swift action to protect the value of the estate. This can be done by bringing an application to pass over, substitute or remove an executor;
- if a beneficiary or other relevant person is failing to disclose information needed to lawfully administer the deceased’s estate, an executor may need to take formal action if they are to avoid being held personally liable for material errors in the future. Options include asking the court to order disclosure, the production of documents or to make any other directions it deems necessary for allowing an executor to fulfil their duties;
- if there is a dispute as to the value of assets in the possession of beneficiaries, it may be possible to ask the court to order a formal valuation.
If you need to contest a will for whatever reason, we will be happy to match you to a specialist lawyer with extensive experience in dealing with contentious probate matters and inheritance disputes. Give Shaye Chapman Lawyers a call as soon as you can so we can give you the advice you need and start working together towards a solution. We will also be able to discuss with you the different funding options available when it comes to contesting a will, including our affordable fixed fee solutions.
At Shaye Chapman Lawyers we understand how upsetting and challenging dealing with probate matters can be, especially when you are grieving for a loved one. Our calm, professional and friendly approach will take some of the worry and stress from you so you can concentrate on looking after yourself and your family. To make things easier for you, we can offer fixed fee solutions for matters involving wills, probate and inheritance. Find out how we can help you by calling us today.