Challenging Wills06-Sep-2018

By Jessie Hughes, Solicitor, Wills, Trusts & Estates Team

Laws in England and Wales, in the main, allow you to leave your estate to whomever you choose. Unlike many countries in Europe, if you fall out with your adult child and wish to ensure that they do not get any of your estate, then you are perfectly at liberty to make a will excluding them.

While this freedom of choice is wonderful, it can lead to aggrieved relatives who may wish to contest the validity of your will or claim on your estate.

Those who have concerns about the validity of a will or feel that they have been unfairly left out have two different avenues to explore. Firstly, is the will valid? For a will to be valid, it needs to be signed, dated and witnessed in the correct manner, you must be of ‘sound mind’ and there should be no undue influence. If someone can prove that your will is invalid, then any previous will is likely to stand. If there had never been a previous will then the intestacy laws will determine who gets your estate and in what proportion.

The second method of challenging a will is to make a claim on the estate. That is to say that your will is valid but you did not make sufficient financial provision for someone that you should have considered. Relatives or a partner fall amongst the category of people who can make such a claim providing they can show that they were financially dependent upon you at the time of your death. Ultimately, the courts will decide what is reasonable in the circumstances and can make an award accordingly.

The benefit of instructing a solicitor to prepare your will is that they will be aware of these potential dangers and challenges. At Cullimore Dutton, our role is not simply to produce a well drafted document but to make sure your instructions are clear and recorded on your file, to ensure no one is coercing you into something you do not want and to remind you that you might need to provide an explanation as to why some family members are excluded. Such action may just safeguard your wishes and prevent a claim in the future.

For more information about writing or updating your Will, please contact a member of the Wills, Trusts & Estates Department at Cullimore Dutton Solicitors on 01244 356 789 or email info@cullimoredutton.co.uk

Please note: This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.