This simple guide answers the four key questions (who can? what grounds? how to? how long?) to help you if you’re contesting a will after probate in the UK
Contesting a Will after Probate in the UK: 4 Easy Steps
Is contesting a will after probate possible in the UK?
The short answer is yes. In the UK contesting a will is possible, after grant of probate. There are a number of things to keep in mind, such as:
- who is contesting the will
- what the grounds are for contesting the will
- how much time has passed since the deceased’s death
If you have a valid reason to contest a will, it is advisable to put a caveat on the estate. A caveat will prevent the grant of probate and subsequent division of assets. This will give you and your solicitor time to investigate and put forward a claim.
Before taking this step, you want to address four key questions.
Who has the Right to Contest a Will?
Anyone who has a vested interest in the will has the right to contest it. This can include beneficiaries AND people not mentioned in the will.
According the Inheritance Act of 1975, family members have the right to apply for compensation from a will. Contesting a will may be necessary if they are not recognised as beneficiaries, or if they feel their inheritance is unfair compensation.
Family members include:
- the spouse or civil partner of the deceased
- a former spouse or partner of the deceased, who has not remarried
- a partner who lived with the deceased
- children, both biological and adopted
- parents, siblings or other relations
People or Organisations not related to the deceased:
In the UK, a last will and testament may be contested by someone outside of the family.
This could include:
- someone who was financially dependent on the deceased
- a person who lived with the deceased
- a person or organisation who had been promised an inheritance, verbally or in writing
- beneficiaries under a previous will (someone who was disinherited in the final will)
- creditors who are owed money by the deceased
Keep in mind 2 key points:
Applications can be made by a third party, like a parent contesting a will on behalf of a minor child.
The division of an estate can be contested when there is a valid will, as well as when it is Intestate (no will in place).
What are the Grounds for Contesting a Will?
There are two main avenues to take when contesting a will. The first is to contest as a family member or a dependent, under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act of 1975.
The other option is to contest the validity of the will itself. Contesting a will in this way can follow several legal arguments:
- lack of testament capacity: the deceased was not in a sound state of mind when signing the will
- lack of knowledge and approval: the deceased didn’t understand what they were signing
- undue influence or coercion: the deceased was overpowered or put under pressure to sign
- lack of due execution: the will was not signed and witnessed according to legal requirements
- forgery: the will itself or the signatures were faked or tampered with
- fraud: beneficiaries were disinherited after false accusations were made against them
How to Proceed with Contesting a Will After Probate has been Granted?
If you have a concern with the contents of a will, you should have your solicitor put forward a caveat as soon as possible. If probate has not been granted, the caveat will put probate on hold until your claim has been resolved. If you are contesting a will after probate, you could apply for an injunction, which would put any further distribution of assets on hold.
The main steps to take when contesting a will after probate has been granted in the UK are:
Obtain necessary documents:
- a copy of the will
- a copy of the grant of probate
- (if probate has been granted, copies of both of these documents can be from the relevant district probate registry)
- relevant identity documents proving relationship to the deceased
- any documentation to substantiate the argument for your claim (previous wills, letters of intent, proof of financial support from the deceased etc).
Consider the validity of your claim:
- what is your relationship to the deceased?
- does your relationship qualify you under the Inheritance Act of 1975?
- have you been unfairly disinherited?
- do you suspect the deceased was mentally incapable of understanding the will they signed?
- were they placed under extreme pressure or coercion?
- has the executor misappropriated any assets?
- was the will legally signed and witnessed?
- do you suspect parts of the will were tampered with, or the signatures were forged?
Decide whether or not to appoint a solicitor:
It is not a legal requirement to appoint a solicitor when contesting a will. However, the claim process can be long and difficult. Sometimes, the claim may end up in court. Before contesting a last will and testament in the UK, you will need to establish that you have legal grounds to do so. It may be helpful to talk to an experienced solicitor about your case and your expectations. For advice or referrals to the most appropriate solicitors for your case, feel free to contact us (insert hyperlink) at Fenix Funeral Services.
Negotiation or Litigation:
If you are contesting a will after probate, there are two possible outcomes. You could have a negotiation and try to work out a solution directly. If this doesn’t work, you can take your challenge to the courts and proceed with litigation. In this case, we strongly advise you to use a solicitor to protect your interests.
How much time do you have to contest a will after grant of probate
As a general rule you should make any claim against a will as soon as possible. If you are contesting a will after probate has been granted, you generally have 6 months in which to make a claim. There are some instances where the timeline is extended, or without limit.
The main instances are:
Fraud or forgery: No time limit
Claims against executor misappropriating assets: No time limit
Beneficiary making a claim: 12 years from date of death
Inheritance Act of 1975: 6 months from the date of grant of probate
Rectification Claims: 6 months from the date of grant of probate
The longer you wait after grant of probate, the greater the chance that the dispersed assets may not be recoverable. Even if the court rules in your favour, a dispersed estate can be difficult to claim from.
If you find yourself in the position of contesting a will after probate has been granted, consider contacting us (insert hyperlink) at Fenix Funeral Directors. We will provide legal advice and dedicate ourselves to protecting your interests through every legal channel possible.
What does Probate mean?
Grant of Probate is a process that has to be completed before the estate can be settled. It is an application made by the executor of the will, which includes:
- a copy of the deceased’s last will and testament
- details of all beneficiaries of the will
- an inheritance tax clearance certificate
- estimate of the estate value (all assets and liabilities taken into account)
Once grant of probate has been received, the executor can proceed with settling the estate according to the will’s instructions. If there is no will in place, an administration letter will need to be granted, and the assets will be divided according to intestacy law.
How long does Grant of Probate take in the UK?
Grant of probate can take 3 – 6 months provided the estate is uncomplicated and there is a valid will in place. However, it could take over 12 months for probate to be granted if there is no will in place and the estate contains complex assets or liabilities.
How do you request a will in the UK?
Once probate has been granted, the original Last Will and Testament is held by the district probate Registry in the UK. The will is available to the public for a fee of £5. You will need to provide the full name of the deceased, the date that the probate was granted and the name of the relevant registry office. At Fenix Funeral Directors, we can advise on the best course of action when contesting a will after probate. Our operatives can help you apply for a copy of the will, or a copy of the grant of probate.