Considering challenging a will? What you need to know about contentious probate

last testament and will

When someone dies, their belongings, such as their home, their savings, investments and personal effects, becomes known as their ‘estate’. Through a legal process, called probate, this estate is distributed in accordance with the deceased’s wishes where a will has been left. If a will has not been left, the estate is distributed in a way defined by law, known as intestacy.

What is a beneficiary?

In terms of wills, a beneficiary is someone named within a will who will benefit should the person making the will dies.

Within a will multiple people can be named as beneficiaries, and assets can be distributed however the person making the will wants.

In cases where a will has not been left, things become a little more complicated. With the deceased person’s wishes undocumented, the estate is distributed in a way defined by law. This is known as intestacy and the rules of who can, and who cannot, inherit are quite clear and include married or civil partners and close relatives, but only in certain circumstances.

For more advice on intestacy and who can inherit, call 0330 123 1229.

Your rights as a beneficiary

As a beneficiary, whether named in the will or through the rules of intestacy, you have basic rights which should be met. This includes the right to see the estate account. The estate account is held by the executor, (the person responsible for administering the estate), and will show the deceased’s assets and any liabilities at the time of their death.

If, for whatever reason, a request to see the estate account is refused or ignored, a beneficiary can seek the court’s involvement. In such instances seeking appropriate legal advice is recommended.

In all cases, beneficiaries, and those who believe they should be a beneficiary, have the right to challenge the will.

Reasons for challenging a will

In most cases the deceased’s family and friends seeks to respect and uphold their loved one’s wishes. However, there are times when those close to the deceased may have reasons to challenge the will. Grounds to challenge a will include its validity, a suspicion that the deceased was coerced into making the will, or because the deceased may not have been of sound mind when the will was made.

In addition, there are instances, typically known as ‘1975 Act claims’ where it may be reasonable to challenge a will and make a claim against the estate. 1975 Act claims include situations where a person has been promised a particular asset by the deceased, but this is not reflected in the will and where spouses, children or other blood relatives feel that the will does not reasonably provide for them.

Pursuing a claim

Clearly, at a time of grief, dealing with matters such as challenging a will can be stressful and requires careful handling. Seeking legal advice on the next steps is essential if a claim is to be made, as this will ensure the claim has the best possible chance of success.

Pursuing such matters can be costly, however, if your claim is successful, a large proportion of your costs could be recovered from the other side. For advice on funding options, including tailored funding arrangements, call our team of experienced will and inheritance specialists on 0330 123 1229.