Contesting a Will can be complicated, but if you suspect that your loved one’s Will does not reflect their true intentions then you should act urgently.
When is a Will invalid?
There are many circumstances in which a Will may be invalid, including where:
- the Will does not comply with legal formalities,
- the Will has been destroyed or physically altered;
- the person who wrote the Will (the testator) was not of sound mind, memory and understanding;
- the testator was unduly influenced or pressured.
A Will must be:
- in writing;
- signed by the testator;
- witnessed by at least two people who are aged 18 or over, of sound mind and sighted;
- dated correctly.
If any of these requirements are not satisfied, the Will may be invalid.
The testator must have had sufficient mental competence to make a Will. Wills disputed on the grounds of testamentary capacity usually require medical evidence, as well as information about the testator’s personal relationships and the contents of prior Wills.
The testator must have been free to make their Will without pressure from others. Challenges on this ground must adduce clear evidence of the undue influence.
How to contest an invalid Will
If you believe a Will is invalid and wish to challenge it, you should seek urgent legal advice to ensure you are able to do so. You must:
- be a spouse, child or cohabitee of the testator, or expressly mentioned in the Will or a previous Will;
- have valid legal grounds.
Enter a caveat
Once you have confirmed your position with a solicitor, you can lodge a caveat with the Probate Registry office. This prevents an official probate being carried out without you being notified and the dispute being resolved. A caveat lasts for six months but it may be possible to renew it.
Pursue your claim in court
Whilst the caveat is in place, it may be possible to resolve the issue through alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation. If things are not settled by the time the caveat ends, you can submit a formal court claim.
What happens if a Will is found to be invalid?
If a Will is found to be invalid, the most recent previous Will is executed instead. If no prior Will exists, the estate is distributed as though the deceased had died intestate.
There is no formal time limit for contesting the validity of a Will. However, if the estate is administered before you lodge a caveat, you could miss your opportunity to claim. You will need to act quickly to protect your interests, so take legal advice at the earliest opportunity.
Will Disputes and Contentious Probate Lawyers, Bournemouth
If you think a friend or family member’s Will may be invalid, you must take immediate action. Solomons Solicitors can advise you on whether you have a claim and support you in pursuing a fair outcome.