Sometimes, the details of someone’s Will upon their death can come as a complete surprise. You may not understand their reasons, but it’s important to remember that a person’s wishes upon their death are heavily protected in British law.
However, if you believe that they were pressured or coerced by someone to change their Will prior to their death, then you may be able to challenge the Will.
In this instance, these are the steps you should take if you want to contest the validity of a Will:
- Don’t wait. The sooner you start the process the better, as there are deadlines that will make it harder for you to contest the validity of a Will the longer you wait, and evidence can be lost over time. Once a persons estate has been distributed it may become impossible for any money or assets to be recovered.
- Collect any evidence. You will need sufficient evidence to support your suspicion of coercion, so a good place to start is to gather together any documentation you can. Types of evidence that might be helpful could be communications such as texts or emails, photos and videos, and any other evidence such as journals or diaries which show what was happening at the time. Coercion or undue influence is very hard to prove as by its very nature it tends to happen behind closed doors.
- Talk to a specialist solicitor. At this point, it is sensible to talk to a specialist inheritance disputes solicitor, if you haven’t already. They will be able to review the evidence and let you know your best course of action and whether you have a case. Contesting the validity of a Will is very complicated, and without the support of a specialist in this area, you may end up wasting a lot of time and money.
- Consider mediation. Going to court is a lengthy and costly process, so if there is a way to avoid it then it would be sensible to consider an alternative solution. Mediation is the process where an impartial person will act as a referee between parties with the aim of resolving the disputes outside of court. It’s important that you work with a solicitor to ensure that any agreement you come to is legally binding and you are both protected from making any further claims against each other.
- Submit a caveat. Your solicitor will be able to help you decide whether you can pause the probate process, by submitting a caveat. This will prevent the executor of the deceased’s estate from being able to administer the estate or distribute the assets, as long as they have not already obtained a Grant of Probate. If you believe the Will was made under coercion, you can file a caveat with the Probate Registry to stop the probate process until such time that the validity of the Will is determined.
- Take your claim to court. If you are unable to come to a resolution outside of court, then the next step would be to commence legal proceedings. You should be prepared for this to be a lengthy process, and should only be considered if you have strong evidence of coercion. If the court decides that the Testator has been coerced then the Will will be invalid and an earlier Will or intestacy may stand.
Talk to us
If you would like any advice on contesting the validity of a Will, protecting your wishes or resolving Wills, Inheritance, Trusts & Probate Disputes then do not hesitate to get in touch with our dedicated inheritance disputes team.