Individuals & families

How much does it cost to contest a will?

It is well known that any litigation is expensive and contesting a will is no different. If anything, inheritance claims can be more expensive than other forms of litigation due to the nature of the claim and the amount of work and investigation involved. It is often misconceived that costs in inheritance disputes automatically come out of the estate. This is not necessarily true as in the first instance the general rule is that the unsuccessful party will pay the costs of the successful party.

Inheritance disputes: left out of a will?

If you believe that you have unreasonably been left out of a will, you may be able to apply for reasonable financial provision from the deceased estate pursuant to the Inheritance (Provision for Family Independence) Act 1975. The Inheritance Act essentially details several hurdles in which a person needs to overcome, in order to obtain reasonable financial provision from the deceased’s estate.

How to start contesting a will

If you think you have grounds to dispute a will then it is important to act fast, preferably before a grant of probate is obtained. If you are disputing the validity of a will, you can lodge a caveat which will prevent any grant of probate from issuing. Before issuing proceedings in the High Court and incurring substantial costs, you should consider various other options. Legal action can slow down the receipt of any inheritance and can be costly for all parties involved.

Inheritance disputes involving adult children - updated case law

Historically claims by able-bodied adult children (against their parents’ estate) capable of earning their own living have been discouraged by the court. The case of Re Coventry established that it was not sufficient to argue that a child of a deceased was in difficult financial circumstances, the deceased had property which could assist that child and therefore it was unreasonable that provision had not been made to them. Given the established thinking, a recent decision of the Court of Appeal is surprising.

Removing and substituting executors

The executor of a will is the person specifically appointed or chosen by the testator (deceased) to administer his estate and to ensure his final wishes are respected. In effect, the executor speaks for the deceased in the settlement of his estate and carries out the instructions set out in the will. The role of an executor is an important one and it is advisable and sensible for a testator to seek the agreement of the executor before the appointment is made.

Rectification of wills

Contentious probate solicitors are often faced with disappointed beneficiaries who comment after seeing a will of a loved one that “those cannot be the wishes of the deceased”. A disappointed beneficiary may struggle to challenge a will if it has been made in accordance with the deceased's wishes. However, if a will doesn't reflect the deceased's true intentions, due to the act of a solicitor who drafted the will, it may be possible to bring a claim for rectification and/or a professional negligence claim.

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