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Disputing a Will

Will disputes fall into 3 broad categories –

  1. A claim that a Will is invalid.
  2. 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”.
  3. 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.


In Conclusion

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.

Talk to us free of charge for some preliminary guidance.

What will we do for you?

  1. First, we’ll listen.
  2. Then we’ll ask questions.
  3. Then we’ll advise.
  4. And then we’ll do what you ask us...
    quickly, simply and at the cost we’ve agreed.

Contact us by phone or email whenever you are ready.

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Our Wills, Trusts and Probate team

Verity Stauffer


Senior Partner

Verity Stauffer

Direct Dial:01252 550408

Email Verity Stauffer

Co-founder of Woodford Stauffer in 1990, Verity is the Managing Partner. She specialises in clinical negligence and difficult personal injury claims.

Luke Taylor


Head of Wills, Trusts and Probate

Luke Taylor

Direct Dial:01252 550 428

Email Luke Taylor

Luke qualified as a Solicitor in 2000 and has been a Partner since 2013.

He is head of the Wills, Trusts and Probate Department and is STEP qualified.

Luke has a particular interest in acting for the elderly as advisor or attorney, administering their financial affairs and tax planning, and in setting up and administering Trusts for the disabled.

Emma Warner

Wills, Trusts and Probate Executive

Emma Warner

Direct Dial:01252 550436

Email Emma Warner

Emma has been a Private Client Executive since 2012, specialising in Wills, Probate and Court of Protection matters. She works closely with Luke Taylor.