The overall wealth of the UK is increasing and most people will have assets at the time of their death however in a small number of cases the intentions of the deceased in regards to the ultimate distribution of their assets may not be clear or may not be fair or may have been the subject of undue influence in an illegal attempt to defraud rightful beneficiaries of their inheritance. Where there is a question about the content and effect of the document which seeks to dispose of the assets of the deceased a specialist contested probate solicitor will advise on how to dispute a will, the likely chances of success and the amount that an aggrieved potential beneficiary may expect to receive in the event of a successful challenge.
Qualified Contested Probate Solicitor
Many potential beneficiaries who are left out of a testamentary disposition enquire about how to contest a will and some start to take legal action without comprehensive legal advice from a contested probate solicitor. Whilst many areas of the law lend themselves to a do it yourself approach, disputing a will is not one of them and those who do not take qualified advice are likely to fail. Disputing a will by a contested probate solicitor is a complex matter, covering both contentious and non-contentious issues that very few lawyers feel qualified to deal with.
The are several ways in which the testator may have erred in law in attempting to distribute assets and a contested probate solicitor will take detailed instructions from you before advising on how to contest the will. The most common matters arising in actions to dispute a will relate to inadequate drafting and execution of the document, failure to make adequate provision for qualifying dependents and undue influence often occurring to a vulnerable testator in the final stages of life. Most enquiries to contested probate solicitors about how to dispute a will fall into the following categories :-
A will must be drafted and executed according to law. Many wills fail because they are not properly signed and witnessed. The law requires the person who is making the will and the witnesses to be all present at the same time. Failure often occurs on do it yourself wills because the testator doesn’t understand the requirement and arranges for the witnesses to sign independently at different times often in different locations.
Provision must be made for anyone who is a dependent of the deceased which is not just restricted to the spouse and children. Many testators believe that their responsibility ceases on death, but this is not the case and a person who was being maintained by the deceased including a non-relative or an illegitimate child can dispute a will by making application to the court for periodical maintenance or a lump sum in lieu.
This mainly occurs when the faculties of an elderly testator are failing and a neighbour or relative persuades that person to change their previous will to favour them. This is a very common scenario with just one person inheriting whereas previous wills had contained legacies to a variety of friends and relatives. If it can be shown that there was undue influence, compounded by failing mental ability, which may also be by threat of violence or blackmail then the document will fail upon application to a court to dispute the alleged will and any previous will thereafter takes precedence.
Most UK solicitors offer free initial advice and a telephone consultation at no cost. If you would like to discuss how to dispute a will call ACTAPS – The Association of Contentious Trust and Probate Specialists who will direct you to a specialist contested probate solicitor will speak to you, usually with no charge and with no further obligation. As in most legal matters there are time limits and you should not delay taking qualified legal advice as soon as possible after the event that is giving you concern.