Contact our team on 01225 755656. Alternatively, you can complete the Contact Form at the foot of this page.
Contentious probate is a term used to describe a dispute over the administration of a person’s estate after they die. According to The UK Wills, Probate and Trusts Market Report 2022, published recently by IRN Research, 646 law firms in England and Wales now offer advice on contentious probate, Wills, and trusts – more than double the number in 2018!
A major reason for this sudden feeding frenzy for litigation lawyers has been the increasing popularity of DIY Wills and probate. The pandemic has proved a particular catalyst in this respect, with many people drafting Wills at home without professional advice. In terms of probate, IRN’s report says that in 2020, more than 40% of applications for grants of probate were made by unrepresented individuals – a record number.
Reasons for challenging a Will
There are innumerable reasons that Wills are challenged, some justified, others less so, but among the most common are:
- Failing to comply with formalities – If a Will is not properly executed, it falls at the first hurdle. Although a Will may appear compliant, can that be proved? Remember, the Will-maker will not be around to set the record straight.
- Lack of capacity – Testamentary capacity is a legal term describing the Will-maker’s legal and mental ability to make or change a valid Will. If they lacked testamentary capacity at the time it was executed, their Will will be invalid.
- Undue influence – Many Wills are challenged over an allegation that the Will-maker only included a particular bequest or clause due as a result of outside pressure or influence. In addition to having testamentary capacity, the Will-maker must make decisions free of coercion.
- Fraudulent Will – Challenges are sometimes made alleging that the Will itself or the Will-maker’s signature is forged. Faced with such an allegation, evidence in rebuttal can prove crucial.
- Inadequate financial provision – This is the biggest single reason for challenges on Wills. If somebody was financially dependent on the deceased at the time of death, and the Will makes no (or inadequate) financial provision for them, they may be able to bring a claim against the estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
Peace of mind
When drafting your Will, your solicitor will be alert to all these possible reasons for challenge and will advise you accordingly. While instructing a solicitor to draft your Will does not eliminate the possibility of a claim against your estate, it will certainly reduce the prospect of a successful challenge.
Your Will should give you peace of mind and the best way to ensure that is to instruct an expert – a solicitor.