Do you feel that you have been unfairly left out of a Will? Does the Will not adequately provide for you? Is your share being challenged? If you need to contest a Will or estate, our specialist Will dispute solicitors can help you fight your corner.

Our lawyers advise on various forms of Will disputes, including:

  • Working with the executors of a Will (the person/people who administer an estate) when a claim has been made, that challenges a Will or how it has been administered
  • Contesting a Will after probate
  • Grounds for contesting a Will
  • Family Will and trust disputes
  • Inheritance Act claims
  • Rural and agricultural Will disputes
  • Professional negligence in Will drafting, tax advice and other related matters

The death of a family member can be a stressful and challenging time for everyone involved. So, when there is the added pressure of a dispute over the deceased person’s Will, it is common for the issue to escalate rapidly, sometimes resulting in lengthy, expensive litigation and family rifts that last a lifetime.

Few families are safe from the risk of Will disputes, particularly nowadays when family structures are often so varied. Divorces, dissolutions, remarriages, stepchildren, children from different relationships – these are all factors that may lead to different family members having different expectations.

Whatever your personal circumstances, we can work with you towards a positive resolution. We understand that you may be feeling frustrated about the situation – for example, if you were promised more than you received under a Will, or if your relative appears to be trying  to undermine you as you handle probate.

We also understand that you will likely be grieving for your loved one. Even if you did not have the best relationship with the deceased, they were a person who should be remembered for more than just how much money they left behind. We will bear this in mind throughout your case and always approach the matter with sensitivity and respect.

Get in touch with our Will dispute solicitors in St Albans and Radlett

If you need assistance about disputing a Will from a trusted local solicitor, please contact us today. We have local offices in St Albans and Radlett and we regularly serve individuals from across the wider Hertfordshire area and London.

How our Will dispute solicitors can help

Stopping probate while you challenge a Will

If you have concerns about the validity of a Will, it is important to act quickly to stop the issue of a grant of representation (known as probate), based on the Will you suspect is invalid. A caveat stops probate from going ahead and can provide an important tactical advantage, with an opportunity for a resolution to be agreed.

Contesting a Will after probate

If a caveat is not entered and the Will goes to probate, it can be more difficult and costly to later reverse the probate – known as an order for revocation of the grant. Crucially assets may have already been distributed.

We can provide detailed advice about your options for challenging a Will that has already received a grant of probate.

The grounds for contesting a Will

We can talk you through your options for disputing a Will and making a legal claim where appropriate.

There are a number of reasons why a Will may be disputed, the most common being that it was:

  • Not signed, witnessed or drafted correctly
  • Made by someone not of sound mind
  • Made under pressure or undue influence
  • Made with a lack of knowledge and approval

The Will was not signed, witnessed or drafted correctly

When a Will is signed (often referred to as ‘executed’), there are a number of legal requirements that must be followed, otherwise the Will can be invalid. These include:

  • You must not leave anything in your Will to your witnesses or their spouses/civil partners
  • Your witnesses cannot be blind
  • Your witnesses must be 18 or over and must see you sign the Will
  • You must use your usual signature
  • You must see each witness sign the Will and they must see each other sign it
  • The Will ought to be dated with the correct date
  • The Will was signed before death

If all these requirements are not followed, the Will may be invalid. This could mean an earlier Will comes into play (if one was written) or the intestacy rules apply (where there is no Will). As a result, the estate (including property, cash, savings and assets) may pass to someone not named in the Will or it may be divided in different proportions, often not according to the deceased’s true wishes.

We have experience in representing people dealing with this type of Will dispute and can help you if:

  • You are worried that the correct formalities were not all followed when the deceased made their Will
  • Someone else has raised the issue 

The testator (the person who made the Will) was not of sound mind

A person making or amending a Will must have the mental capacity (and sound mind) to do so. The legal term for this is ‘testamentary capacity’.

It is essential that the individual making a Will (known as the testator) is capable of understanding:

  • That they are making a Will
  • The nature and effect of making the Will (for example, that they are choosing who their assets will go to after they die)
  • The extent of their assets and possessions (in a broad sense)
  • How making a Will can affect anybody included in it, anybody left out of it and anybody who would inherit if they did not make a Will

The person making the Will must have no mental disorder or delusion that would adversely affect their thinking and therefore influence the contents of the Will. For example, a person may lack capacity to make a Will because of an illness such as Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Testamentary capacity can also be affected by medication.

When disputing a Will and making this type of claim, you will need to provide evidence, such as:

  • Prescriptions for psychiatric medication
  • Medical records
  • Records of residing at a psychiatric hospital
  • A power of attorney
  • Proof they had been sectioned under the Mental Health Act

It is possible to obtain copies of a deceased person’s medical records and get expert opinion from a medical specialist. Another option is take written statements from those who met and interacted with the deceased on or around the time the Will was signed, such as the witnesses to the Will or the lawyer involved in preparing the Will.

The testator was under pressure or undue influence

It has been said that “a testator (the person making a Will) may be led but not driven, the Will must be the offspring of their own decision and not the record of someone else’s”.

A person may be influenced by any number of factors when making a Will, such as:

  • The wishes and needs of their loved ones
  • Their own personal values
  • Their family’s hopes and plans for the future

However, where influence crosses the line into pressure, coercion and fraud, it is possible to legally challenge the validity of the Will.

You can remind the person making the Will of family connections, services provided to them in the past, or ask them to include a person who may be in need in the future. However, you cannot exert pressure to overpower their judgement.

Different types of influence can amount to coercion and render a Will invalid. Examples include:

  • Physical violence
  • Verbal bullying
  • Simply talking to a sick person who is seriously ill in such a way that that person may be induced for quietness-sake to do anything

The serious nature of undue influence means that you must provide strong evidence to back up your claim. This can be challenging since the primary witness – the deceased – is not able to assist the court.

If there are suspicious circumstances surrounding the making of a Will but strong evidence of undue influence is not available, it might still be possible to challenge the Will on other grounds. We can provide practical advice on your prospects for making a successful undue influence claim as well as talk you through your other options.

The testator did not approve of the Will or know of its contents

A person making a Will is not just required to sign it, they need to understand and approve of its contents.

A challenge to the validity of a Will on the basis that the person making the Will lacked the required knowledge and approval is often pursued as an alternative to a challenge of undue influence as this can be far more difficult to establish and prove.

Issues of knowledge and approval can arise if the person making the Will suffers from a condition such as blindness, deafness or illiteracy. Factors which may raise suspicion about whether the testator knew or approved of the Will’s contents include:

  • They were a vulnerable person
  • They made radical changes to previous Wills without explanation
  • There are errors and/or spelling mistakes in the Will
  • A beneficiary took an active role in the Will instructions and/or the signing of the will
  • Unusual behaviour of the person making the Will
  • Using witnesses who are not independent (for example, they were the testator’s spouse or civil partner)

This type of Will challenge tends to be stronger in cases of DIY Wills where the testator did not receive any legal advice. 

Inheritance Act claims

In the UK, challenging a Will on the basis that you were left out of a Will or not left as much as you need is difficult but entirely possible with the right legal advice.

Our Will dispute solicitors appreciate how confusing and upsetting it can be to be passed over. Perhaps your loved one made you promises during their lifetime that were not reflected in their Will, perhaps they cut you out at the last second due to pressure by other relatives, or perhaps their Will was found to be invalid – whatever the reason, we can provide advice about making a claim for ‘reasonable financial provision’ under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

For further information, visit our dedicated Inheritance Act Claims page.

Rural, agricultural and farming Will disputes

Disputes among farming families after the death of a family member are not unusual. Agricultural businesses and landed estates are often run by generations of the same family. So, if the senior family member has not made proper provision for after their death or their wishes prove controversial with other family members, lengthy and expensive disputes can quickly arise.

For example, a common scenario is where a person spends years or decades working on the family farm on the understanding that it will eventually become theirs, only to be left out of the Will. If that person acted to their detriment by passing up other opportunities and making personal sacrifices based on the promise that they would inherit the farm, they may be able to make a legal claim.

If you need advice about disputing a Will that concerns rural and agricultural assets, businesses and other interests, or help defending a Will challenge, we can provide clear practical advice and robust litigation skills. In our experience, open communication is beneficial in these types of cases and with our negotiation skills on your side, you will have the best possible chance of achieving a positive, amicable resolution out of court.

Wills and professional negligence

The purpose of hiring professionals is to make use of their specialist expertise and ensure that whatever vital job you need doing is undertaken with the highest level of skill. So, when a professional – such as a solicitor, an accountant, or financial advisor – lets you down and you suffer loss as a result, you may be able to make a professional negligence claim.

A Will negligence claim may arise from a number of scenarios, such as:

  • The Will was hastily drafted resulting in mistakes or people being left out
  • The Will was poorly drafted and does not reflect the deceased’s true wishes
  • The Will is invalid because it was not witnessed or signed properly
  • The professional caused unreasonable delays and the testator died before the Will could be executed
  • The professional failed to properly satisfy themselves that the testator had the mental capacity to make a Will
  • The testator received negligent tax advice from a qualified professional

Our Will dispute lawyers can provide advice on your prospects for making a successful professional negligence claim as well as handle the entire claims process on your behalf. For some general information about making a claim, visit our Professional Negligence Claims page. 

Defending a disputed Will

We regularly act on behalf of executors and/or beneficiaries to defend disputed Wills against all types of challenge, including:

  • Challenges to the validity of the Will
  • Challenges to the way the executors are administering the estate
  • Inheritance Act claims

Being involved in a Will challenge is a stressful situation, so get in touch with our disputed Will solicitors as early on in the process as possible for expert advice about the steps you can take. With our strong negotiation skills and professional support on your side, you have the best possible chance of settling the matter peaceably and avoiding court proceedings.

For more information, visit our Defending a Disputed Will page.

Get in touch with our Will dispute solicitors in St Albans and Radlett

If you need assistance about disputing a Will from a trusted local solicitor, please contact us today. We have local offices in St Albans and Radlett and we regularly serve individuals from across the wider Hertfordshire area and London.

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