If you suspect the Will of a loved one who has died does not reflect their true wishes or fails to make adequate provision for those closest to them, you might consider challenging the Will. An already anxious time of grieving could be made worse if you are worried about what to do next.

Contesting a Will should never be done on a whim and it is vital to consider whether a successful claim would produce a better outcome than the provisions in the existing Will. Craig Williams, a partner and contentious probate specialist at B P Collins, outlines the process below.

How do you contest a Will and how long will it take?

You first need to establish the grounds for a claim. Perhaps the person who died did not have the mental capacity to make a Will or did not fully comprehend its contents; maybe they were influenced by someone else, or perhaps you believe the Will was forged; or it doesn’t reflect the wishes of the person who died due to a clerical mistake, or a misunderstanding. Maybe you feel there has not been adequate provision made for you in the Will.

You should always discuss your options with a solicitor who should explain the evidence that is required, the process, and the likely obstacles.  

After taking advice, if you have a potential claim, the next step is to consider entering a caveat to prevent the Probate Registry issuing a grant of probate (if there is a Will) or letters of administration (if there is no Will). It costs £3 to enter a caveat, which lasts for six months and can be extended by application.

Ordinarily, you would then explain your case in a formal letter sent to the people who will benefit under the Will.

Contesting a Will is a complex process, which can take months or even years, particularly if it involves going to court. It’s always worth considering mediation in to help avoid court proceedings, which can be expensive and stressful.

How long do I have to contest a Will?

If you are a beneficiary making a claim against an estate, you normally have up to 12 years after the person who made the Will has died. In cases of probate fraud, there is usually no time limit.

There are strict and shorter time limits for certain claims. For example, a claim for a reasonable financial provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act, must be issued within six months from when probate was granted.

Can I contest a Will if I’m not in it?

Yes. If you suspect a Will is not valid, you can make a challenge in the hope that an earlier Will or the Intestacy Rules will apply.

If you were part of the family or you were financially maintained by the person who died, then you might be able to make a claim against the estate for a reasonable provision to be made, regardless of whether you are named in the Will.

Can I contest a Will if probate has been granted?

You can dispute the validity of a Will after a grant of probate has been issued, but it is usually better to make the challenge sooner, for strategic reasons.

Claims for increased financial provision under the Inheritance Act can also be issued after probate is granted.

Disputing a Will requires the expertise of a contentious probate solicitor. Before taking the next step, contact Craig Williams at craig.williams@bpcollins.co.uk or call 01753 889995 to discuss your options.

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