Losing a loved one is never easy, and the situation can be further complicated when you believe that their last will and testament does not adequately reflect their true wishes or has been unlawfully influenced. In these instances, it may be necessary to consider contesting the will. In this article, we will delve into the grounds and process for contesting a will in England and Wales, and the importance of seeking professional guidance from expert will-writing services, such as Sovereign Planning, during what can be a complex and emotionally charged time.
Contesting a will involves challenging its authenticity, validity or the terms it contains, and can only be done under specific circumstances. It is essential to understand that contesting a will is not undertaken lightly, and the success of the challenge depends on various factors. In the following sections of this article, we will discuss the primary grounds for contesting a will, such as lack of testamentary capacity, undue influence, and fraud or forgery. We will also explore the process of contesting a will, from gathering evidence to making a legal claim, as well as possible outcomes and the role of professional assistance in managing this intricate legal endeavour.
Grounds for Contesting a Will
There are several circumstances under which you may be able to contest a will in England and Wales. Understanding these grounds is the first step in determining whether you have a valid case:
1. Lack of Testamentary Capacity: If there is reason to believe that the testator (the person who made the will) did not have the mental capacity to fully understand the nature and implications of their actions when making the will, it may be contested on these grounds.
2. Undue Influence: If it can be proven that the testator was coerced or manipulated into making specific decisions or distributions within the will, it could be considered invalid.
3. Fraud or Forgery: If it is found that the will was forged, fraudulently altered, or the testator was deceived into signing the document, it can be contested on these grounds.
4. Lack of valid execution: A will may be challenged if it has not been signed and witnessed according to the legal requirements.
It is essential to recognise that simply being unhappy with the provisions of a will is not sufficient grounds for contesting it. There must be specific legal reasons to believe that the will is unfair or illegitimate.
The Process of Contesting a Will
Contesting a will can be a complex and time-consuming process. The following steps outline the general procedure:
1. Gather Evidence: The first step is to collect evidence to support your claim that the will is invalid based on one or more of the aforementioned grounds. This could include witness statements, medical records, or forensic analysis of the will itself.
2. Obtain a Copy of the Grant of Probate: You will need to obtain a copy of the grant of probate (or letters of administration if there is no will), which provides the legal authority to administer the deceased’s estate.
3. Enter a Caveat: To prevent the distribution of the estate while the matter is disputed, you can enter a caveat with the Probate Registry. This will prevent the grant of probate from being issued for up to six months, providing time to pursue your claim.
4. Seek Legal Advice: Engaging the services of a professional specialising in will disputes is crucial during this process, as they will be able to offer tailored advice and guidance based on your specific circumstances.
5. File a legal claim: If a resolution cannot be reached through negotiation or mediation, you may need to file a claim with the court to have the will declared invalid or amended.
Possible Outcomes of Contesting a Will
The outcome of contesting a will can vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case:
1. The will is declared invalid: If the court finds that the will is invalid due to one or more of the abovementioned grounds, then the estate will be distributed according to the rules of intestacy or a previous valid will, if one exists.
2. A revised will is produced: If the will is found to be partially invalid or the court amends the provisions, the estate will be distributed according to the terms of the revised will.
3. No changes to the will: If the court determines that there are no valid reasons to contest the will, the estate will be distributed as originally outlined in the document.
It is worth noting that contesting a will can be a long and emotional process, and success is not guaranteed. As such, carefully consider the potential outcomes, costs, and emotional toll before proceeding.
Seeking Professional Help When Contesting a Will
Navigating the intricate and sensitive process of contesting a will can be significantly facilitated by enlisting the help of expert will-writing and estate planning services, such as Sovereign Planning:
1. Expert Knowledge: Our team of professionals possesses comprehensive knowledge of will disputes and the legal grounds for contesting a will, ensuring your case is built on solid foundations.
2. Tailored Advice: We provide personalised advice and guidance based on your unique circumstances and the specifics of the disputed will.
3. Experience in Negotiation and Mediation: Our experienced team can help you explore alternative dispute resolution methods, such as negotiation and mediation, before resorting to court proceedings.
4. Support Throughout the Process: The team at Sovereign Planning will offer support and guidance throughout this emotionally difficult time, providing clarity and assurance as you navigate the complexities of contesting a will.
Contesting a will in England and Wales is a challenging and emotionally charged process. Understanding the grounds on which a will can be contested, knowing the steps involved, and seeking professional support are all essential aspects of successfully pursuing a will dispute. By enlisting the services of Sovereign Planning, you can approach this difficult situation with confidence, knowing your concerns are being addressed by experts who understand the intricacies of will disputes and can guide you towards a fair resolution.
At Sovereign Planning, we provide comprehensive will-writing services to help you create a will that accurately reflects your wishes and minimizes the chances of your will being contested in the future. Ensure your loved one’s true wishes are honoured with professional advice and support from Sovereign Planning. Contact us today for guidance and expertise when contesting a will in England and Wales!