Time Limits in Will Dispute and Will Contest Claims
Will claim Solicitors, specialist no win no fee will dispute and will contest Solicitors, discuss time limits in will dispute and will contest claims
In general what are the time limits in Will dispute and Will contest claims?
Very generally, in England and Wales the following time limits are likely to apply to disputes arising in connection with Wills and estates in England and Wales:
- Claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 – six months from the date of the Grant of Probate (or Letters of Administration – where there is no Will).
- Claims to rectify the Will – six months from the date of the Grant of Probate (or Letters of Administration where there is no Will).
- Claim of breach of Trust (for instance where a Will trust is created by the Will) – six years (s. 21 Limitation Act 1980)
- Claim in respect of any share of a deceased’s estate – 12 years (s. 22 Limitation Act 1980)
- Claim against the legal validity of a Will (for instance where a Will was forged, wasn’t properly witnessed, was made at a point in time when the deceased had no legal testamentary capacity and/or when he or she cannot have known and approved the contents of it) – no time limit at all (but see McElroy v McElroy below – where an estate has already been distributed).
Refer in general to our page about time limits at:
The case of McElroy v McElroy  EWHC 109 (Ch)
This case deals with a possible exception to the general rule that a claim against the legal validity of a Will has no time limit preventing a claim in court many years after the death and Grant of Probate. Where an estate has already been distributed, this may prevent such a claim. In McElroy the Court held at paragraph 60 of the Judgment that in the event a “laches” defence is made out whereby it would not be possible to recover the assets of the estate, the Court would be entitled to “and indeed bound to dismiss a probate claim that has thereby been rendered utterly academic. To otherwise allow the probate claim to proceed would simply expose the parties to significant expense for no discernible benefit”. This is akin then to the position that in general a party cannot bring a probate claim if he/she has no interest in the outcome – for instance where they are not a beneficiary under a previous valid Will or by the rules of intestacy.
What is “Laches”?
McElroy provides us with the answer at paragraph 34:
- The classic statement of the principle of laches was given by Lord Selbourne LC in Lindsay Petroleum Co v Hurd (1874) L. R. 5 P.C. 221 [at 239,240] as follows:
“Now the doctrine of laches in Courts of Equity is not an arbitrary or a technical doctrine. Where it would be practically unjust to give a remedy, either because the party has, by his conduct, done that which might fairly be regarded as equivalent to a waiver of it, or where by his conduct and neglect he has, though perhaps not waiving that remedy, yet put the other party in a situation in which it would not be reasonable to place him if the remedy were afterwards to be asserted, in either of these cases, lapse of time and delay are most material. But in every case, if an argument against relief, which otherwise would be just, is founded upon mere delay, that delay of course not amounting to a bar by any statute of limitations, the validity of that defense must be tried upon principles substantially equitable. Two circumstances, always important in such cases, are, the length of the delay and the nature of the acts done during the interval, which might affect either party and cause a balance of justice or injustice in taking the one course or the other, so far as relates to the remedy.”
- It is not in dispute that for the purposes of determining this preliminary issue, acquiescence and/or estoppel do not add anything to laches, which is an equitable doctrine under which delay can bar a claim to equitable relief.
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