The number of contested wills is on the rise

The number of contested wills is on the rise and the death of a loved-one is a distressing time.

There’s so much to think about – including whether your relative left a will which set out what they wanted to happen to their estate after their death.

Then, the executors named in the will enter need to establish what the asssets and liabilities are and apply for a Grant of Probate before being able to distribute the residuary estate to the intended beneficiaries.

It can get very complicated, particularly if the executors or the beneficiaries do not get on.

A small proportion of wills are contested by people who feel they have been left out of the will or who have not been left the monies they had expected.

Those wills can turn contentious and expert legal advice is required in order to deal with the aftermath of a poorly written will or a will that has not been properly executed.

Ministry of Justice figures show that in 2014, there were 178 contentious probate court cases – almost double the 97 cases in 2013. Experts say this is just the tip of an iceberg for contested wills, as only a fraction of disputes end up in court.

Why do people contest wills?

There is a raft of reasons a will could be contested.

Some people believe a will was made when someone was not mentally fit to make it, others because they believe a will has been superseded, and others because they feel the provisions are unclear.

Although the number of contested wills has historically been small, it is a growing trend over the past 15 years.

Increasingly, there are more complicated family relationships involving children second marriages and step-children.

The increase in property prices has also meant that the value of estates has grown and where there is more money at stake, the likelihood of contested probate increases.

How can someone contest a will?

The best way forward is to contact a specialist in contentious probate.

It’s important that someone contesting a will gets the correct legal expertise from a solicitor with a track record in contesting probate cases.

They will advise you whether you have a case to contest it and, if so, will lodge it for you.

There has to be legal grounds for a case – a will simply which appears unfair to a left out beneficiary is not automatic grounds to challenge the validity of a will.

Having to deal with a dispute at such an upsetting time is distressing, but an expert Solicitor who can explain things to you clearly will help you through it.

How can someone avoid a will being contested?

Expert will-writing from a Solicitor  well-versed in dealing with probate is the best way to prevent a will from being contested.

Inexperienced will-writers can make errors which would render a will null and void or be unclear to relatives. DIY will kits can leave many unanswered questions.

Your solicitor will know the formalities surrounding the execution of a will,  understand the process, and know how to phrase your wishes to give them the best chance of being carried out.

If you’ve been delaying probate of a will, it may well now be the time to proceed.

Heartbroken relatives delaying the probate of a will is understandable, but changes set to be introduced to the fees to grant probate are likely to sharply increase the amount an estate would pay for it.

A consultation on changes to the probate fee system ended in April and it is looking likely that those fees will soon be significantly increased.

 

If you need help from a Wills and Probate specialist,

call us on 029 2056 7836 or contact us today.

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