What are the Grounds to Contest a Will?
There are a number of circumstances we would consider that could give rise to a Will dispute or Will contest claim; many will naturally cause suspicion (whether one has experience of these matters or not) and it is these which we are likely to be willing to investigate under a no win no fee arrangement.
Here are some of them although this is not a definitive list (!) :-
- Where money, property or other items were promised in return for care and support (or for something else) but this has not been carried out within the Will
- Where money, property or other items were promised to you and in reliance on that promise you changed your position (for instance gave up work or your own home) to your detriment
- Where you contest the legitimacy of the executor or where you believe that the executor is not serving the interests of the beneficiaries impartially
- Lack of Testamentary Capacity – where the testator (which is the legal way of describing someone who has made a Will) may potentially have lacked the mental capacity to write a Will. This is very common with testators who may have had dementia/Alzheimer’s Disease and/or who had been under the influence of painkillers or medication that impacted upon their ability to make fluid independent decisions
- Where there is reason to believe the Will terms do not reflect the wishes of the testator and/or because he/she might have been forced to make it in terms which don’t necessarily reflect his/her wishes
- Where there are reasons to believe the Will has been negligently or fraudulently written (for instance forged or perhaps signed and executed on a different date)
- Where a Trustee (perhaps appointed by the Will) is acting in his own self-interest and in breach of the terms of the Trust and/or has failed to properly call in property belonging to the Trust, keep it safely and distribute it as per the Trust terms
What are the next steps to dispute a will?
Where negotiations have broken down (or not even started because the other party refuses to discuss the case with you), we advise you to seek professional legal advice. One of the first acts is to ensure that you gather all of the papers (if you have any!!) which could possibly be relevant. However, do not worry if you don’t believe you have enough please do still call us as one of the tasks we expect to perform is to investigate and obtain the papers and information that you can’t (for instance, the Will, Will file, information about the making of the Will and medical, care and other records concerning the deceased).
We are prepared to take on a case speculatively under a NO WIN NO FEE arrangement regardless of the state of the evidence and information available to ascertain whether there is sufficient evidence to win. What is vital is that you make the decision to instruct us (or another) quickly to avoid the evidence becoming lost or destroyed or the estate being dissipated in which case of course, it may be difficult to recover any money or assets which have been spent.
Afraid of going to Court – don’t be as this is unlikely to happen!! Firstly 99.9% of these cases will settle (be resolved by agreement between the parties) before court proceedings have to be issued and/or there is a trial. Secondly, your own evidence may not assist much anyway (unless for instance in a Will dispute case you actually witnessed the Will being prepared and executed which in our experience is highly unlikely). Moreover the Courts directly encourage parties to a dispute of this nature to try and resolve it before Court proceedings are even contemplated. A Practice Direction – Pre Action Conduct (which is a directive issued by the Courts and which must be complied with) has been issued to govern the conduct of parties before Court proceedings are issued in this type of case. In accordance with the terms of this Practice Direction, there must be a “cards on the table” approach to the dispute. So where for instance there are key papers to be considered, the parties must cooperate in obtaining them and release copies on request. This as mentioned will include the Will and even the Solicitors Will file (where it was prepared by a Solicitor) along with copies of any earlier Wills. Moreover, there is an additional requirement that the parties must consider and engage with each other in “Alternative Dispute Resolution” (in other words negotiation, mediation or early neutral evaluation). Penalties can be imposed on those who do not engage in this way before Court proceedings are issued to include in extreme cases, penalty costs orders. In other words, the person or party in breach could be ordered to pay your costs as well as their own.
Do you believe that you have grounds to contest a will?
If you believe you might have grounds to contest a will, please do not hesitate to contact us for a free claim assessment. We will treat your case with complete confidentiality and respond with our professional advice and guidance to help you claim what is rightfully yours. There is absolutely no obligation and our initial advice is free as mentioned.
I can’t thank you enough for providing someone of Ms Amy Berry’s calibre, as you rightly say “horses for courses”, a brilliant woman…..Last but not least my sincere thanks to you for all your support through this ghastly business.Mrs H – May 2017