Claims involving contesting a Will have substantially increased in recent years. Families are becoming more complicated and people are living longer, giving rise to claims that they were not mentally capable of making a Will. The most common reasons for contesting a Will are as follows:
• The Will is invalid: A Will must be in writing, signed, properly witnessed and dated and it may be that it can be argued that it is invalid. If a Will is invalid, a previous Will may take effect or the rules of intestacy may apply.
• Lack of Capacity: The person making the Will must be mentally capable of doing so. It may be necessary to obtain medical records and/or a medical report to determine if someone was mentally capable of making a Will. If they were not, the Will may be invalid.
• Lack of Knowledge and Approval: it may be that the person making the Will did not have knowledge and approval of it. It might be necessary to obtain witness evidence on this point. Alternatively, if a Solicitor prepared the Will, it may be necessary to obtain further information from them and/ or a copy of their file.
• Undue influence: a Will can be challenged if there is evidence that the person making it was put under pressure. This can also amount to the criminal offence of fraud.
• Fraud: there could also be a potential claim if it can be proved that a Will has been forged or destroyed or a signature altered.
• Claims for maintenance: under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependant’s) Act, you could potentially make a claim if you were financially dependent on the deceased and were not adequately provided for in the Will.
• Estoppel: you could have a claim if you acted to your detriment based upon promises by the deceased. For instance, if you sold your house and made improvements to a family member’s house on the agreement that you would inherit it when they died, you may have a claim against the Estate if the agreement is not honoured.
These are some of the reasons people might contest a Will. Please contact us if you would like more specialist advice or assistance.