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Disputed Wills

Dealing with the death of a relative is very difficult and emotional. It can become even more difficult when their will (or lack thereof) comes to light. You may feel that your relative’s will does not provide for you, or does not reflect what you believed were their intentions.


You may suspect that they were not of sound mind, or were being influenced when they made their will. There are also occasions where people have not made a valid will at all – in these situations, it is common for someone unexpected, such as an estranged spouse, to end up inheriting.

These situations often lead to disputes which can be very complicated and distressing for those involved. It’s not uncommon for such issues to seriously damage close family relationships, so getting the right support during this challenging time is essential.

We are one of a small number of firms in the area with specialist solicitors who are experienced in handling the complexities of will disputes. Our will dispute solicitors can help you bring or defend a claim over a will or an inheritance. Our expertise includes:

  • Challenging the validity of a will, for example, because:
    • The will was not executed properly
    • The testator (the person who made the will) did not understand what making a will means or its effect
    • The testator did not know what was being included in the will
    • The testator was influenced or coerced into making the will
    • The will was created through fraud or forgery
  • Inheritance Act Claims, for example, if you have:
    • Been left out of the will altogether
    • Not been left as much as you need under a will
    • Lost out because someone died intestate (without making a will)
  • Lodging caveats to prevent a grant of probate being issued while you investigate the validity of a will
  • Dealing with challenges to caveats – warnings and appearances

We are happy to offer a free initial meeting for all new clients to discuss your situation and the options available to you.

Read our blog on how to contest a will

Get in touch with for expert disputed wills advice in Bournemouth, Poole, Christchurch, Ringwood and the New Forest

We have bright, modern and accessible offices in Christchurch and Ringwood, but our excellent IT systems allow us to work with clients from all across the country.

All new clients can have a free initial meeting with one of our bright experts. These can take place over a coffee at one of our offices, by phone or video conference. Call us on 01202 499 255 or fill in the get in touch form on this page to arrange yours. 

Ask us at Frettens

Can I contest a relative's will?

Yes, there are a number of different reasons why you may have the grounds to contest a loved one’s will. This can include concerns about their mental capacity at the date they made the will, issues of them having been unduly influenced by someone close to them, not properly understanding the contents of their will or simply that it fails to make reasonable financial provision for you depending on your relationship to the deceased and your needs.

Grounds for contesting a will due to validity

The grounds the court will consider when looking at whether a will is valid include:

  • Mistake or error in the drafting of the will.
  • If there is evidence that any pressure was placed on the person making the will as to its contents. Do you have suspicions regarding the contents or making of the will?
  • Doubts as to the will maker’s mental capacity or their understanding of the contents of their will or their assets at the time they made their will
  • Proprietary estoppel. Have you been promised an inheritance, acted to your detriment as a result of that promise and then found out that you have been left nothing from the estate?
  • The will has not been signed properly or there were not the required number of witnesses present.

Is it hard to contest a will?

The answer to this question will depend on the facts of each individual matter. We offer a free, no obligation initial consultation and can advise you whether we consider that there are sufficient grounds to make a claim. You can then consider your options.

How can I contest a will?

If we consider that there are sufficient grounds to dispute the validity of a will then we would initially look to settle the claim through correspondence and mediation.

If this is not possible, as a last resort, it would be necessary to commence court proceedings.  We can consider various payment options when dealing with disputed will cases including deferring payment until the outcome of the case where the merits allow.

Disputing a will is never easy as we understand that you are grieving a loved one and embarking on litigation. Our team are sympathetic to the circumstances surrounding these types of dispute and can guide you through these stressful times.

Who pays for contesting a will?

The courts have a wide discretion when looking at costs for contested wills.  The standard costs awards are:

  • Costs can be ordered to be paid from the estate
  • The losing party could be ordered to pay the winner’s costs
  • In some instances, both parties will bear their own costs

Can you contest a will after probate?

Yes, you can contest a will after probate has been granted, however there is a strict time limit on claims.

How much time do you have to contest a will?

If you are claiming financial provision then there is a strict 6-month deadline from the date of the grant of probate. If you think you have been left out of a will, but have a financial need that should be considered then the sooner you act the better.

For some other claims such as validity issues, you have a longer period but it is always best to act quickly.  We can advise you on time limits in relation to your particular dispute over the will.

How long does it take to contest a will?

If you are claiming financial provision then there is a strict 6-month deadline from the date of the grant of probate. If you think you have been left out of a will, but have a financial need that should be considered then the sooner you act the better. 

For some other claims such as validity issues, you have a longer period but it is always best to act quickly.  We can advise you on time limits in relation to your particular dispute over the will.

What happens when someone dies without leaving a will?

When someone dies without leaving a will it is called ‘dying intestate’. When someone dies intestate, there are no instructions about what should happen to their money and property nor is anyone appointed the job of administering the estate.

Instead, the rules of intestacy will decide how the estate should be administered. The rules set out a hierarchy of people who are allowed to inherit and administer the estate. Spouses and civil partners are at the top of the list and distant relatives such as half aunts and uncles are at the bottom.

Unmarried partners, ex-spouses and civil partners, step children, friends, charities and other unrelated people are not allowed to inherit or administer the estate. This can often cause conflict after a person passes away. For example, the deceased’s estranged spouse or civil partner may end up inheriting the whole estate while their current partner is left with nothing. Alternatively, ex-spouses who were still being provided for during the deceased’s lifetime may lose valuable income.

Depending on the circumstances, it may be possible for anyone left out to make an application for reasonable financial provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (often referred to as an Inheritance Act claim).

Can someone make a claim on their ex-spouse's estate?

A former spouse or civil partner is allowed to make a claim for reasonable financial provision from a deceased person’s estate if they die intestate or do not adequately provide for their ex in their will.

When deciding whether to allow an Inheritance Act claim, the court will consider factors such as:

  • The applicant’s age
  • Whether they have minor children or dependants and their ability to earn or retrain
  • Their contribution to the family
  • How long the marriage or civil partnership was and how long ago the parties split up
  • The kind of financial settlement the parties agreed, for example, was there a ‘clean break’ with no ongoing financial obligations or was the deceased paying spousal maintenance?

We can provide tailored advice according to your individual circumstances, including your prospects for success and the steps needed to make a claim.

My partner died intestate and their estranged spouse inherited. Can I make a claim?

Partners who were not married or in a civil partnership with the deceased may make an Inheritance Act claim if they are in need or were financially dependent on the deceased. For example, an adult cannot claim an inheritance simply because they were a biological child of the deceased - they must have financial needs beyond this.

The court will take into account factors such as:

  • The applicant’s financial needs and resources, both now and in the future
  • The needs and resources of any beneficiaries
  • The obligations and responsibilities the deceased had towards the applicant and the beneficiaries
  • The size of the deceased estate and factors such as its liquidity
  • Whether the applicant or beneficiary has any mental or physical disabilities
  • Any other relevant factors, such as the behaviour of the applicant