When There’s a Dispute About a Will
Dealing with disputes about a will requires a combination of professional expertise, attention to detail and sensitivity. The good news is that Scott-Moncrieff’s specialist Contentious Probate team has supported very many families through this often difficult process and has the experience and know-how to make sure issues and disputes are resolved as quickly and painlessly as possible.
Contentious Probate arises when someone named in a will disputes its validity or accuracy. A dispute may also happen when an individual such as a family member or close friend claims that they’ve been unfairly overlooked.
At Scott-Moncrieff we’ll take on any complex legal investigations and negotiations so you don’t have to undergo additional stress. We’re proud of our track record in swift and equable dispute resolution and our clients tell us they appreciate our energy and diligence.
Can I challenge a Will after someone has died?
There are all sorts of potential reasons for challenging a will after someone has died, including:
Concerns that the person who made the will lacked mental capacity (“testamentary capacity”); For a person to make a valid will they must be of sound mind. The legal test is set down in the 1870 case of Banks v Goodfellow which states that, for a will to be valid, a person must:
- understand that they are making a will and the effect of that will;
- know the nature and value of their estate;
- understand the consequences of including and excluding certain people under their will; and,
- not be suffering from any ‘disorder of mind’ which may influence their views. For example, if the testator made gifts which they would not have made had they not been suffering from that disorder.
Although the law has developed since the case of Banks v Goodfellow, the basic principles remain the same. In a will dispute any of the above concerns would be the starting point for challenging a will on the grounds of a lack of testamentary capacity.
People making a will must have a sound mind: they must not be suffering a disorder that may influence their actions and they must understand they are actually making a will and what the effect of the will can be; they must understand what their estate is and what it constitutes; also, they must have some knowledge of the value of their estate.
- suspicion that there was fraud or that the deceased person was subjected to undue influence by one or more people. This is a common concern, that one or more people have pressured a person into making or changing the will in their favour. It is important to ensure that a person receiving assets from another has not influenced the giving of the gift unduly. Similarly, the law does not presume that a person receiving a gift via a will has had undue influence.
- concern over the validity of its execution;
- lack of knowledge or approval, which means the person who has written (or signed) their own will must understand and approve of its contents;
- suspicion of forgery. Wills suspected of being made fraudulently and those that are the result of forgery are a highly sensitive area. The forging of the deceased’s signature means a fraudulent will has been made. Similarly, forcing or influencing the deceased to have added or removed someone from their will due to a falsehood is fraud.
- rectification and construction claims; sometimes administrative errors occur and a will no longer reflects the true intention of the deceased.
- discovering that the will is invalid because it was not signed and/or witnessed properly.
Your Wills & Probate Solicitors in England
We help executors and family members regarding entitlement to take out a grant to the deceased’s estate, and when necessary we will take swift action to block a grant by entering a caveat at the Probate Registry. We can also assist in sorting out issues relating to co-ownership of property following the death of a joint proprietor.
As a case progresses we can assist beneficiaries and family members in making a claim against personal representatives who may not be administering the estate properly or with due diligence.
We’ll also represent a beneficiary’s interests more generally to ensure that they get what they are entitled to within a reasonable period of time. We act for clients with a life interest in an estate and for residuary beneficiaries in valuing and negotiating buy-outs of life interests.
I’ve think I’ve been unfairly treated in a Will. What can I do?
Scott-Moncrieff also specialises in advising disappointed beneficiaries who wish to make a claim against an estate. This can include claiming for reasonable financial provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
We’ll advise on how best to pursue your case and handle matters with sensitivity so there’s minimum damage to family relationships or friendships.
How can I fund my case?
We’ll be able to advise on the best way of funding your case so that it’s as affordable as possible.
We know that it’s vital to keep you 100% informed about the cost of your case as it progresses and we provide regular cost updates so that you’re never in the dark.
Contact our Wills & Probate Lawyers in London
We provide services throughout England and Wales, including London, , Nottingham, Hampstead, Hertfordshire, Bristol and Kent.