Most common reasons for contesting a will

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Nobody particularly wants to think about planning inheritance and making a will, and most people don’t know where to start.

The process can be stressful as you consider your own wishes as well as the needs (and wants) of the loved ones you leave behind, and sometimes, even after weeks, months or even years of careful consideration, it is still possible for legal issues and family disputes to arise when you are no longer here to settle them yourself.

These problems can occur if somebody has written a will using a cheap ‘DIY will kit’ instead of a professional service, and has failed to acknowledge just how complex writing a will can be.

With that in mind, here are some of the most common reasons for inheritance disputes and litigation problems - things which could be avoided with the help of an expert advisor from Wills Services.

Lost wills – What happens if a will cannot be found?

If someone close to you dies unexpectedly, it can be difficult to know where they’ve placed their will, or if they’ve even made one.

When looking for a deceased person’s will, you should:

  • Look for a certificate of deposit 
  • Check with the Principal Registry of the Family Division
  • Check with the deceased’s care home/hospital
  • Contact the person’s solicitor, bank or accountant

If you are unable to find their will after taking all of the relevant steps to do so, the person’s death will most likely be dealt with as if they died without one (known as dying intestate). This means that the estate of the deceased will be placed in the hands of the law, with inheritance decided by the UK’s strict ‘intestacy rules’.

These rules pose some serious threats to the personal wishes of the deceased, with married or civil partners and a small selection of other close relatives being the only people in line to claim inheritance.

Unsigned wills – Declaring a will invalid

To be valid in the eyes of the law, a will must be signed not only by the person-in-question, but also by 2 witnesses – these witnesses should be people who are not stated as a beneficiary of the will; if they are, the witness remains valid, but they will not receive their share of the inheritance.

The witnesses also need to be sober at the time of signing (understandably), as well as over 18 and without visual impairment – if any of these requirements are not met, it might be difficult for them to fight the case of the deceased should legal proceedings be called.

If a will has recently been updated but not signed, the distribution of assets will be conducted in accordance to the old will. In some cases, the beneficiaries might be able to agree to a variation of the old will to make it a closer representation of the updated, invalid copy (for example, if the deceased had a child who was not around when the first will was written).

Of course, there is no stopping any beneficiaries from spreading their inheritance informally, but this will not be enforced by law.

‘Unfair’ wills – Grounds for contesting a will 

When writing your will, there is every chance that you might leave somebody out who feels that they deserve recognition for their contributions to your life – if this is the case, they may consider contesting the will.

One common example of this is when parents of estranged children leave their inheritance to charity.

Of course, the decision to hand over an estate to charity is one not usually made half-heartedly, but in some cases, the court can (and will) consider going against these wishes. For example, if the deceased has no previous affiliation with the charities and has not given ample reasoning for their decision, any estranged relatives might have grounds to contest.

There may also be grounds to contest if the will does not provide what is known as ‘reasonable financial provision’ for close family such as a spouse or child.

Other reasons for contesting a will

Wills are complicated legal documents which, if not written correctly, can be easily picked apart by professionals if there is ever a dispute.

Some other reasons why someone might contest a will include:

  • Probate fraud – If adequate evidence is given against a relative, carer or anybody else who is deemed to have changed (or tricked the person-in-question into changing) a last will and testament.
  • Undue influence – If the court finds that, in their older age, an individual was pressured into changing the terms of their will, it can be contested. However, this can be hard to prove.
  • Invalid execution – When executing a will, there can often be cases of negligence, meaning that the will is no longer in accordance with section 9 of the Wills Act 1837. This can include scenarios in which those who are witnessing a will are not present for the testator’s signing. 
  • Failed mediation – Sometimes, a mediator will be called to help contesting parties come to a solution which suits everyone. If this fails, the next step is usually to undergo litigation. 

The best way to write a will

If you’re looking to write a will, you probably have many unanswered questions: What should I write? Who should I trust to be my witness? How can I prevent my will from being contested?

By having your last will and testament written with the assistance of our advisors at Wills Services, you can rest easy knowing that your wishes will be carried out exactly as you intend them to when you pass away.

Whether you’re looking for professional advice or seeking an expert will-writing service, Wills Services is on hand to help you. Start your Will and get in touch with us today for obligation-free advice.

 

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