Lawrence Stephens

We are a *knowledge business

Contesting a Will: FAQs

May 2020

The impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has raised a number of adverse challenges for families and individuals across the country. More than ever before, families may be in the position of needing to contest a will. With this, comes a number of important questions and considerations. Below, we have answered the most frequently asked questions related to contesting a will.

On what grounds can a will be contested? 

Valid reasons for contesting a will include:

    • A lack of knowledge, understanding or approval – in some circumstances, the person making the will was not fully aware of, or did not understand, the contents in the will, for whatever reason.
    • A lack of mental capacity – there may be cases where the person making the will does not have the full mental capacity required to make a will. This may be the case if the individual is of old age. 
    • Lack of due extension – concerning cases where the will has not been witnessed and signed appropriately.
    • Forgery or fraud – in cases where the will has been fraudulently signed, or where the contents of the will itself is fraudulent. 
    • Revocation – whereby the will has been revoked. Reasons could include another will, a marriage or damage to the will.
    • Undue influence – concerning cases where the person making the will has been coerced. 

Who is able to contest a will?

Anyone is able to contest the legitimacy of a will. In most cases, it is usually carried out by a person close to the maker of the will, and who has been left out of the will, or is in a particularly unstable financial position. 

When must you contest a will?

There is no time limit to contest a will, but it is important that action is taken as soon as possible to preserve any evidence that may support your case. Likewise, If the issue is raised as early as possible, claimants are more likely to prevent a Grant of Probate being issued and assets being distributed before the will has been contested appropriately.

How long does the process take?

Timescales are reliant on court timetables as opposed to the parties involved, and can often span 12-18 months. For this reason, it is important to contest as early as possible. 

What happens if a will is successfully contested?

If challenges are upheld, the court must decide how assets are distributed. To inform their decision, courts may consider previous valid wills made. It is worth noting that a court may wish to void a will in part, or entirely. 

How much does the process cost, and who is required to pay?

As mentioned above, the process for contesting a will can be lengthy due to necessary investigations into various records, including medical records and solicitors files. For this reason, the process is also a costly one. 

However, there is a general rule with litigation which states that the losing party is required to pay the winning party’s costs. It should be noted that costs are only ever taken out of the estate in exceptional circumstances, as opposed to customary ones. 

Is there another method for contesting a will? 

We always recommend that alternative dispute resolution methods are practiced by parties before any legal action is taken. Often, careful mediation can settle a disputed will out of court and save all parties from a lengthy and costly process. 

At Lawrence Stephens, we are experienced in the mediation and expert litigation required to successfully resolve disputes surrounding wills. We remain on hand to support our clients throughout these difficult times, and are committed to ensuring these processes are as smooth as possible. 

If you would like to discuss any of the points raised above, please do not hesitate to get in touch.