Contesting the Validity of Wills in the UK - MLP Law

Contesting the Validity of Wills in the UK

  • Wills, Trusts & Probate
  • 3rd Jul 2024

Contesting a will can be a daunting and emotionally charged process. In the UK, the law provides mechanisms to challenge the validity of a will under certain circumstances. Understanding these grounds and the associated legal process is essential for anyone considering contesting a will. This guide will walk you through the key aspects of challenging […]

By Jane Hunter

MLP Law
a young couple at the table in the solicitors office trying to contest a will

Contesting a will can be a daunting and emotionally charged process. In the UK, the law provides mechanisms to challenge the validity of a will under certain circumstances. Understanding these grounds and the associated legal process is essential for anyone considering contesting a will. This guide will walk you through the key aspects of challenging a will in the UK.

Grounds for Contesting a Will

There are several grounds on which a will can be contested:

  1. Lack of Testamentary Capacity: A will can be challenged if the testator (the person who made the will) lacked the mental capacity to understand the nature and effect of their actions at the time the will was made. This includes understanding the extent of their estate, the potential beneficiaries, and the consequences of including or excluding certain individuals.
  2. Lack of Valid Execution: For a will to be valid in the UK, it must comply with the formal requirements set out in the Wills Act 1837. This includes being in writing, signed by the testator in the presence of two witnesses, who must also sign the will in the presence of the testator. Failure to meet these requirements can render the will invalid.
  3. Undue Influence: If the testator was coerced or unduly influenced by another person to make or change the will in a way that does not reflect their true intentions, the will can be contested on this ground. Proving undue influence can be challenging, as it requires evidence of manipulation or pressure.
  4. Fraud or Forgery: A will can be contested if it is believed that it has been forged or that the testator was deceived into making the will. This is a serious allegation and requires substantial proof, such as expert testimony on the authenticity of the testator’s signature.
  5. Lack of Knowledge and Approval: The testator must have knowledge of and approve the contents of the will. If it is believed that the testator did not fully understand or was unaware of the content of the will, it can be contested on this basis.

Top Tips for Contesting:

  1. Seek Legal Advice
  2. Gather Evidence
  3. Lodging a Caveat: If you want to prevent the grant of probate (the legal process of administering the estate), you can lodge a caveat with the Probate Registry. This will stop probate from being granted for six months, giving you time to investigate further and potentially resolve the dispute.
  4. Mediation and Settlement: Before proceeding to court, it is often beneficial to attempt mediation. This is a process where an independent mediator helps the parties reach a settlement. Mediation can save time, reduce costs, and minimize family conflict.
  5. Court Proceedings: If mediation fails, the case may proceed to court. The court will examine the evidence and make a determination on the validity of the will. This can be a lengthy and expensive process, so it is crucial to be well-prepared and have strong legal representation.

Key Considerations

Time Limits: There are strict time limits for contesting a will. Generally, a claim must be made within six months from the date of the grant of probate. However, for claims based on fraud or lack of testamentary capacity, there may be more flexibility.

Costs: Contesting a will can be expensive. Legal costs can be significant, and if you lose the case, you may be liable for the other party’s costs. It is essential to discuss the potential costs and funding options with your solicitor.

Family Dynamics: Contesting a will can strain family relationships. It is important to consider the potential impact on your family and weigh this against your reasons for challenging the will.

Conclusion

Contesting the validity of a will in the UK is a complex process that requires careful consideration and expert legal advice. Whether you are concerned about the capacity of the testator, the influence of others, or the proper execution of the will, understanding the grounds and legal procedures is essential. If you believe you have valid reasons to contest a will, consulting with a specialist solicitor is the crucial first step in navigating this challenging process.


At mlplaw, we are your go-to experts for contested probate. Contact us via email at wtp@mlplaw.co.uk or call us on 0161 926 1535. Read more about our Probate service Here

About the expert

Jane Hunter

Partner and Head of Private Client

Jane is a Private client lawyer who is CTAPS qualified, and a member of the Association of Lifetime Lawyers. Jane acts for a wide variety of clients including business owners, high net worth individuals and agricultural clients.

Jane is experienced in advising on Wills, Powers of Attorney, Tax Planning, Administration of Estates, Court of Protection matters, and Asset Protection within families and businesses and contested Probate estates.

Jane lives locally in Lymm with her 18-year-old son and in her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends and renovating her house and garden.

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