Disappointed by the outcome of a will?
Can I do anything about it?
If you believe a will was written by somebody who lacked mental capacity or wrote it under duress, the validity of the will could be challenged.
If the deceased promised to leave you something in their will and you relied upon this promise to your detriment, the Court may be prepared to honour that promise even if the will does not. Examples include someone who has given up work to provide unpaid or low paid care for an elderly person, someone who has worked on a farm for a low wage on the promise that the farm would one day be theirs or someone who has sold their house and used the proceeds to improve the deceased’s property.
Additionally, the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 states that certain categories of people may be entitled to reasonable financial provision from an Estate, even if they have been left out of a will. These include:
- A spouse of the deceased
- A former spouse of the deceased who has not remarried
- A child of the deceased (and some step-children)
- A person maintained by the deceased immediately prior to their death
How do I challenge a will?
It is important that challenges are made quickly. Certain claims must be made within 6 months of the grant of probate being obtained.
Can I see the contents of a will?
Once probate has been obtained, a will becomes a public document. Anybody can obtain a copy for a small fee by writing to The Postal Searches & Copies Department, York Probate Sub-Registry, 1st Floor, Castle Chambers, Clifford Street, York, YO1 9R stating the full name and address of the deceased and the date of death.
How can I stop the Estate being distributed before my claims are heard?
It is possible to stop an Executor distributing an estate until all claims have been heard, settled or withdrawn. The appropriate action depends upon whether a Grant of Probate has already been obtained and on the facts of the case. Caveats can be lodged at the Probate Registry, injunctions can be issued and undertakings (promises) not to release funds pending the outcome of a claim can be obtained from professionals e.g. solicitors.
How long will it take to settle my claim?
Some claims are resolved very quickly, without the need to go to Court. Executors (usually in conjunction with the beneficiaries) may accept your claim is reasonable and reach a settlement with you. Others may take several months or years to get to Court (although the Jarndyce v Jarndyce case in Bleak House is an extreme example).
How much will it cost to bring a claim?
The costs vary depending upon the nature of the dispute and how long it takes to resolve. It is possible that your costs will come out of the estate. Alternatively, you may be covered under Legal Expenses Insurance.