Where there’s a Will there’s a War…

One of the most fundamental principles of English law is that a testator is free to draw up his Will and dispose of his assets as he sees fit without any interference from a third party. However, Wills are often contested, especially amongst close family relatives.

In a recently reported case, siblings fought a sour court battle over their father’s £100 million estate. In 2012, the father drafted a Will which divided his estate between the siblings and other family members. After the father died, a solicitor sent the son a copy of a new Will in which a majority of the estate had been left to his sister. Following a lengthy 3 week trial, the judge found that the ‘very materialistic’ daughter had most likely ‘engineered’ the Will to her advantage and had failed to show that the father knew and approved of its contents. The outcome of the case was that the father’s 2012 Will was approved and the siblings were each entitled to a £27 million share of their father’s estate. However, the siblings were also faced with substantial legal fees.

Will disputes can be very contentious. We have set out below some common reasons as to why a Will might be contested:

  • The Will is invalid – this may be if the deceased lacked the requisite testamentary capacity to make a Will, the deceased was improperly influenced by another person or because the Will was not properly signed or witnessed
  • The Will was forged
  • The deceased promised to make provision for you in their Will before they died but they did not put it in the Will
  • You were not provided for in the Will and were financially dependent on the deceased. In such cases, a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 may be advisable

If you are considering disputing a Will or if someone raises a dispute with you, it is vital that you seek legal advice as soon as possible as the time limits for bringing a claim in certain cases are quite short. Challenging a Will is a serious matter so it is important that you select a solicitor who can demonstrate the necessary knowledge and skill in order to assist in these highly specialised cases. For further information and to set up a client meeting, please contact our Contentious Trust and Probate Department or Patrick Farrington at pfarrington@keelys.co.uk or call our offices on 01543 420000.

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