Contesting a will – a point by point guide to resolve a contested will or Inheritance Act dispute
1. You must be clear you have a right to claim; for instance there is no right to contest the validity of the Will if you have no interest in the estate once the Will you dispute is declared invalid. Further in a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, you must fall within the category of potential claimants set out in section 1, so that you are a spouse, child or dependant of the deceased.
2. Ensure that you understand the time limits. There is no time limit if you are contesting the validity of the Will. However, there is a six month time limit from the date of the Grant of Probate if your claim is for financial provision under the Inheritance Act.
3. Clearly set out the basis of your claim to contest the Will in a letter of claim and provide as much paperwork and information as you can. If you are contesting the validity of the will, it might be sensible to enter a Caveat to stop the grant of probate to allow time for your claim to be considered before the estate is distributed (but always seek legal advice if you enter a caveat).
4. Invite discussion with the other parties and consider so called ADR (alternative dispute resolution) to include mediation, simple negotiation or possibly even a joint approach to a neutral specialist Barrister, to pre determine any tricky point of law.
5. Mediation in will dispute claims, is a formal confidential discussion where the parties engage a professional mediation to try and assist each side to move towards a resolution. Whilst it is tempting to engage in no holds barred/winner takes all court proceedings, this is a high risk strategy for both sides and is likely to be frowned on by a Judge. The no holds barred/winner takes all approach could even lead to a costs penalty against you, even if you do eventually win. An experienced mediator will be able to provide impartial advice about this and the likely costs of losing a will contest claim.
6. In our experience it is much better to try and buy off the risk of losing these extremely difficult and contentious claims, notwithstanding the bitterness that goes hand in hand with them.
7. Failing that, you will have to consider court proceedings. If your claim does get this far, we would again urge you to consider engaging an experienced will contest Solicitor such as ourselves. There are many such as us who can provide assistance on a no win no fee basis.
8. You will need to be clear though that if a Solicitor is to work for you in a will contest claim on a no win no fee arrangement, he or she will have to be reasonably confident of success and for obvious reasons (otherwise they may not get paid). It may well be telling, if they refuse to be engaged under such an arrangement, but offer to work on a pay as you go basis instead!
By all means contact us for further information on the no win no fee arrangement or for any information at all, and we will be try and assist.
T: 0203 322 5103/E: firstname.lastname@example.org