I want to challenge a Will as it doesn't seem fair – what are my rights?

Julian cole portrait.

Julian Cole

Senior Solicitor

Phone 01264 353411

Email jcole@bsandi.co.uk

Most people don’t discover the full extent of a loved one’s Will until that person has passed away. Over the years, they may have been told: “my engagement ring will be yours when I’ve gone”, or they might assume that they will inherit half of the family home, but it is not until the Will is read that final intentions and wishes are formally revealed.  

Things do not always turn out as expected. The ring may have been left to someone else; the house won’t pass equally to son and daughter. And, in some situations, there is a general feeling that the terms of the will are not fair to one person or another.

So what can be done? The short answer is that certain people (including blood relatives, a spouse, and someone who was financially dependent on the deceased) are able to bring a challenge, on certain grounds. The avenues for contesting a Will are very deliberately confined, largely because the terms of a freely made Will should be respected. But if you feel that something is not quite right, you may be able to launch a legal challenge, either on the basis that the Will is invalid, or that ‘reasonable financial provision’ hasn’t been made.

An invalid Will

This means that the legal requirements of an effective will have not been met. There are a few different grounds for invalidity. These include that the person making the Will didn’t have mental capacity at the time; the Will wasn’t properly signed or witnessed; there is a suspicion of forgery; and the Will-maker was under undue influence to write their Will in a particular way.

Reasonable financial provision

A claim for reasonable financial provision is based on the Will not properly providing for a spouse, cohabitant, child or dependant of the deceased. This type of action is typically brought by a surviving husband/wife or child, although it is possible for other types of dependents to claim.

If you feel that a Will isn’t fair, the first step should be to speak to a specialist solicitor who will help you understand your situation in its full legal context. It’s best to do this as soon as possible. That’s because time limits apply to claims, but also because a challenge should ideally happen before the estate is distributed.

To speak to us about anything raised here, contact us on 01264 353411 or email info@bsandi.co.uk.

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