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How do I... Dispute a Will?

View profile for Michelle Hayter
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Wills are fertile ground for legal contests.  The law lays down technical requirements for executing a valid will. Unhappy potential beneficiaries have numerous ways to attack the validity of a will in court. Commonly, people who were not included in the will claim a right to some of the assets of the estate. A dependent of the deceased who was not adequately provided for in the will can also take legal action to demand support.

How do I Ensure the Will is Valid?

Failure to follow even one of these mandates can invalidate the entire document and provide grounds for disputing a will. Some of these issues are time sensitive, so it is crucial that you obtain legal advice as soon as possible. Legal action can be taken if a will fails to satisfy:

  • the testator must be at least 18 years old at the time of making the will; wills made by minors are invalid
  • the testator must have made the document under their own free will, without suffering undue influence from another individual; the appearance of undue influence by a beneficiary is a common grounds for contesting a will 
  • the testator must fully understand the meaning of the will and be considered of sound mind 
  • the testator must sign the will in the presence of two witnesses who must then also sign the will 
  • if a witness to the will is also a beneficiary, that individual automatically loses their inheritance

What Happens if the Will is Lost?

If the original will is lost, the proposed executor may go before the High Court to seek a grant of probate by proving the validity of a copy of the will.

Obviously someone who was a beneficiary of an earlier will but is not a beneficiary of the will in question might want to start legal proceedings for disputing a will in order to challenge the copy. The argument would be that the original will was not in fact lost but was instead destroyed by the deceased in an act of revocation.

If the lost will was actually revoked by destruction, then the earlier will would be valid and its terms would dictate the distribution of the deceased’s assets. It is no small task to prove the intentions of a deceased person. A great deal of evidence and many witnesses must be brought forth to support claims for and against the validity of the will.

What Support Should be Made for Dependents? 

A dependent can be a spouse, partner, minor or mentally disabled person. Should the testator have a dependent, the will must provide for that dependent’s support.

If the will doesn’t include adequate provisions for the dependent, the dependent can take legal action to demand support. The grounds for the contest are that the deceased failed to meet their legal obligation of financial support.

Not many solicitors specialise in this area – it can be difficult to find someone with experience in probate law and also courtroom disputes. I am particularly experienced in this area and would be happy to meet with you to discuss any questions you have about a will or defending yourself from a relative who is disputing a will. Contact me for a free initial meeting on 01202 499255 or via hello@frettens.co.uk

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