Disputing a Will
Will disputes fall into 3 broad categories –
- A claim that a Will is invalid.
- A claim by a family member, or dependent, that he or she has been unfairly excluded from the Will, or left an inadequate amount. This is called an “Inheritance Act Claim”.
- A promise made to leave a bequest, which has not been honoured in the Will.
An Invalid Will Claim
A will is invalid if:
- the Testator’s signature was forged,
- it was not correctly witnessed,
- the deceased lacked the necessary mental capacity at the time he gave instructions for the Will,
- the deceased did not fully understand or approve the contents of the Will,
- the deceased was subjected to duress or undue influence to make the Will.
An Inheritance Act Claim
A spouse is entitled to be left sufficient provision in the Will of the pre-deceasing spouse.
This rule applies even if the couple were separated at the time of death – but will not apply after divorce proceedings have been concluded.
It is often said that a spouse is entitled to claim what he/she would have been awarded in a divorce settlement: this isn’t accurate – often, the entitlement will be greater – but, it is a good starting point.
Children, including step-children in full-time education may be entitled to claim sufficient to maintain them until their education is complete.
Adult children, and step-children, will find it difficult to make a successful claim unless they can show either:
- that, because of ill-health or other unfortunate life circumstances, they cannot provide financially for themselves and their family, or
- that the parent had financially maintained them, wholly or in part, prior to death.
- Financial dependents – even if you are not related to the deceased, if he or she was financially maintaining you – whether wholly or in part – you may be able to make a claim on the Estate.
Generally, a bare promise to leave you property or a sum of money will not be sufficient to make a successful claim.
However, in some circumstances – very broadly when you have given the deceased something significant in return (it doesn’t have to be tangible – for example, providing care would count) such a promise may be enforceable.
Disputed Will claims are a highly specialised area requiring expert investigation and evaluation. The Law is complex and, often, claims are made more difficult because of fraught family relationships.
With our in-house expertise and tactical skills, we have a high success rate in this field and, in many cases, will offer a “no win no fee” arrangement to enable a claim to be made.