Under the law in England and Wales, a person has the right to leave their entire estate to whoever they choose, however, in recent years disputes over the Will of a deceased family member are on the increase.
Family members may have expectations that they would receive a share of the deceased’s estate only to find that they have either been excluded completely, the estate was left to another family member or, in some instances, a third party such as a charity.
Before any challenge is made to a Will it is important to seek legal advice. Careful consideration should be given to making any challenge as this is a very complex area of the law.
Often problems will arise when there is distrust with those appointed to administer and distribute the deceased’s estate. Many problems arise simply as the administrator of the Will refuses to release a copy of the Will to family members, fail to administer the estate properly, or handle the matter in a way that raises suspicion amongst those entitled that they believe they may lose out.
Our Contentious Probate team will advise you of the grounds that will be necessary to establish a challenge. Most commonly, a dispute arises where there are concerns in the following areas:
1. The validity of a Will – There are certain criteria that must be met for a Will to be valid. A challenge to a Will may based upon the possible basis that the Will was not signed or witnessed correctly, that the deceased lacked the mental capacity to make a Will, that the person making the Will was placed under duress to make the Will or that the deceased did not know and approve the contents of the Will.
2. Forgery of the deceased’s signature – where alleged the Will is a forgery, it is possible to seek the Will to be declared invalid.
3. Financial Maintenance and Dependency – claims can be brought under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 which, if a dependency can be established, will enable the Court to consider an award for reasonable provision. This type of claim can be made without the deceased leaving a Will.
4. Conduct of the administrators – where family members or friends are appointed as the personal representatives of the estate, there can be issues when they fail to administer the estate, do it incorrectly or seek to spend the deceased’s assets and money for their own purposes.
5. Rectification – in some cases, the contents of the Will may not be clear. We can advise upon the meaning in the Will and, if appropriate, seek the Court to rectify the Will or determine the intention of the clause or gift.
For a free, no obligation chat about disputes over a deceased loved one’s Will, please contact us on 0800 002 9577, alternatively complete our online enquiry form in the box on the right or by clicking here to go through to our contact page.