At Kirsty’s Law we specialise in handling a wide range of legal disagreements. We
are able to support both claimants and defendants where a will is being contested.
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Contentious probate is the term used for any dispute relating to a persons will and their estate after death.
The most common claims of contentious probate are generally those made by a child or spouse when they feel they should have been looked after by the deceased, but unfortunately haven’t been. In these cases, it is often deemed valid to challenge the will.
The will can be challenged on various grounds including, but not limited to the person who wrote the will (the testator) not having testamentary capacity (lacking the mental capacity) or that the testator did not know or approve of its content. If forgery or fraud is suspected the will must then be challenged.
If the person wishing to challenge the will (the beneficiary) wishes to do so due to a perceived unfairness or because the will does not benefit them in the way they would have liked, they will not be able to. In English and Welsh law, a person is fully able to leave their entire estate to whoever they wish to. If they have the mental capacity to do so, have made the choice of their own free will and no-one has exerted undue influence on them. Their wishes must be recorded properly in their will.
What this means is that not just anyone can make a claim at any time because they feel they should have inherited or received a larger share. Testamentary freedom overrides this.
If the will is valid, but a family member wishes to make a claim for example, as it does not make reasonable financial provision for them, a claim may be brought under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
Another area of contentious probate is disputes arising from death bed gifts. When someone knows that they are going to die soon, there may be no time to update their existing will. Instead, they can choose to make a deathbed gift. This is usually in the form of a verbal agreement. This may be contested and there are no time limits on when you can contest.