Losing a loved one is often difficult enough, but it can be particularly distressing where the contents of the person’s will and the way they have asked for their assets to be distributed come as a surprise to those they leave behind.
Once it has become clear who will be receiving what from the person’s estate, disputes can sometimes erupt between family members and friends. This is most common where unexpected persons have been named as beneficiaries or where certain individuals have received more, or less, than was expected.
There are two principal grounds upon which any will can be disputed and challenged. It can be argued firstly, that the will was invalid, or secondly, that the will fails to adequately provide for a particular individual. Whilst only certain individuals can claim they were not adequately provided for; such as a spouse, former spouse, child, step-child, long term partner or other dependent, anyone is able to dispute the validity of a will.
For a will to be deemed valid, as well as satisfying procedural requirements such as being signed by the person making the will, (who must be at least 18 years of age) and being witnessed by two people who are not beneficiaries, there are also requirements relating to the personal circumstances of the person making the will. These include the requirement that the person is of sound mind, fully understands the consequences of their will and are free from pressure put on them by others to ether make the will or include certain provisions in it.
Most commonly wills are either contested on the ground that the person was not of sound mind or that they were pressured to include, or make extra provision for, a particular beneficiary. It is important that those seeking to dispute a will seek legal advice from a specialist solicitor, with experience in successfully challenging Wills, as soon as possible following the disclosure of the wills contents.
A solicitor will inform you of any time limits on making a claim and will advise you on steps that can be taken to protect the estate from being diminished while the claim is being made – such as lodging a caveat to freeze the estate’s assets. This protects the estate from losing value whilst the Will is challenged.
If you have been surprised by the contents of a relative's will, speaking to your local solicitor about disputing the Will ensures any worries you may have regarding the validity of the will are properly addressed and the estate protected until such point that your claim is dealt with.
Call David Dixey, litigation lawyer at Holmes & Hills Solicitors and speak with David about organising a meeting to discuss challenging a Will and whether you may have grounds to challenge the Will of your relative.
Holmes & Hills solicitors have five offices across Essex and Suffolk. You can meet with a lawyer to discuss challenging a Will at any one of our offices in Braintree, Sudbury, Halstead, Tiptree or Coggeshall.