The process of dealing with a deceased person’s estate can be challenging, particularly when disagreements arise regarding the contents of their will. Such disputes can lead to prolonged legal battles, causing not only financial strain but also emotional stress for all involved. If you’re in England and facing a will dispute or are simply curious about the process, this article aims to clarify the most pressing questions surrounding the topic.

What is a Will Dispute?

A will dispute, often termed ‘contentious probate’, arises when someone believes that a will doesn’t reflect the deceased’s true intentions, or they believe they’ve been unfairly treated.

Who can challenge a will?

Typically, the following parties may contest a will in England:

  • Beneficiaries named in the will;
  • Those left out of the Will but who might expect to benefit (like close relatives);
  • Beneficiaries named in an earlier will;
  • Creditors to whom the Deceased owed money.

On what grounds can a will be challenged?

A will can be contested on various grounds:

  • Lack of testamentary capacity: the Testator wasn’t of sound mind when making the will;
  • Undue influence: someone exerted inappropriate pressure on the testator;
  • Lack of valid execution: The will doesn’t meet legal formalities;
  • Fraud or forgery;
  • Claims under the Inheritance (Provision for family and dependants) Act 1975: Here, parties such as a spouse or civil partner, child of the Deceased or someone who was financially dependent on the Deceased claims the will doesn’t make reasonable provision for them.

How long do I have to dispute a will?

Time limits depend on the type of claim. For claims under the Inheritance Act, you usually have six months from the date of the grant of probate. For other challenges, there might not be a strict time limit, but it’s essential to act promptly.

Is it expensive to challenge a will?

Costs can vary widely based on the complexity of the case and the duration of the dispute. However, at Cognitive Law, we offer a range of litigation funding options to help ease the financial burden.

Can I avoid Court?

Mediation is a popular alternative to court proceedings. It’s a confidential process where a neutral third party (the mediator) helps both sides come to an agreement. Mediation can be quicker, cheaper, and less confrontational than Court. At Cognitive Law we will listen to your goals and needs and try to settle your claim without the need for Court if and where appropriate and in line with your goals.

What are the chances of success?

Ever case is unique. A solicitor can give an initial assessment based on the merits of the claim, the evidence available and prevailing legal precedents.

Can the will be changed if everyone agrees?

If all beneficiaries agree, they can change how the assets are distributed using a document called a ‘Deed of Variation’. This can even have tax benefits in some situations.

In Conclusion

Will disputes can be intricate, emotionally charged, and legally complex. If you believe you have grounds to challenge a will, or if you’re defending against a challenge, it’s vital to seek professional advice.

For personalised advice and assistance with will disputes in England contact Hayley-jo Lockley at Cognitive Law. With a wealth of experience and expertise, Hayley-jo can offer guidance tailored to your unique situation, ensuring that your rights and interests are protected. Remember, at Cognitive Law, we understand the financial concerns and offer a range of litigation funding options to support your needs.

Don’t navigate the turbulent waters of will disputes alone; let Hayley-jo Lockley and the team at Cognitive Law guide you to a resolution. Contact Hayley-jo on or call on 01224 933669.