Get Legal Advice About Disputing a Will
Do you need help with a dispute about a will or your inheritance?
Disputes about wills, or about how an estate is distributed after a loved one has passed away, can be lengthy and expensive to deal with, and extremely damaging for the family members involved, if the case is not handled professionally and sensitively. Disputes can also arise when trusts have been set up, but have not been drafted or administered properly.
If you are having any of these problems, then Samuels Solicitors, with our particular expertise in this area, will be able to help you. We are based in Devon, but we help clients with these types of disputes, from all over the UK.
There are many different reasons why disputes about wills and inheritance can arise, and the following are just a few examples.
Can I Make a Claim if Someone Died Without A Will?
The most common reason for a dispute to arise after someone has died, is if they did not leave a will at all. If this happens, then the intestacy rules would apply. Particular problems can arise between siblings, where one may have had more financial help from parents during their lifetime, or one of the siblings has acted as a carer for elderly parents.
When there is no will, disputes can arise about whether or not a property should be sold, and about who should take possession of any assets and items left behind by the deceased.
If your loved-one did not leave a will, and the intestacy rules apply, we can advise you about what you might be entitled to and any challenges that you can bring.
Can I Claim About an Out Of Date Will?
If the deceased did make a will, but if their circumstances changed before they died, it is possible that you could bring a case to challenge their will. For example:
- any marriages (whether first, second or more) have the effect of nullifying any will the deceased made previously, meaning that their estate would be dealt with under the intestacy rules.
- If there have been unexpected increases or decreases in the wealth of the person making the will, that can lead to disputes about the size of legacies they have left.
- If a main beneficiary has died before the person making the will, there can be problems if it is not obvious who the estate should be left to.
- if the will makes reference to property or other assets which are no longer owned by the deceased, there can be problems administering their estate.
It is therefore very important to keep your will under review. If you have had a will drawn up, no matter how long ago, whether you have done it yourself, whether a solicitor or will writer has drawn it up for you, we will be happy to check it for you for free to let you know whether it is compliant with current rules.
The increase in second marriages and second and step-families means that a properly drafted will is more important than ever to avoid disputes occurring after someone has died, as when you get married, that marriage will cancel out any previous will you have made.
Can I Challenge Will which Left Nothing for Spouse?
The law says that certain family members must be provided for in a will. Disputes can therefore arise where a will fails to make provision for:
- a husband or wife;
- a cohabitee;
- a former spouse;
- certain classes of children; or
- other dependents.
The law in this area changes regularly and it is important to take up to date expert advice. If you have already got a will, and you are not sure whether you have made adequate provision for certain family members, then you should get your will checked as quickly as possible.
If your husband or wife has died without making any provision for you in their will, it is likely that the will can be challenged.
Can I Challenge a Badly Drafted Will?
If a will has not been drafted in accordance with the law, it can potentially be challenged. Even if you do have a will, disputes can therefore still arise if the will has been drafted badly. Wills are highly specialised and technical documents and it is therefore very easy to fall foul of the strict rules surrounding them, and not draw them up properly. This can happen even when a solicitor or will writer has drafted the will. There are many reasons why wills might not comply with the strict rules of drafting, including:
- using an off-the-shelf will that you can buy from a shop;
- preparing a will yourself;
- using a non-lawyer to prepare a will; or
- badly-drafted wills by solicitors.
Certain organisations use cheap wills as an enticement to clients to enter into other transactions, such as taking loans or mortgages. In one notable case involving Barclays Bank, the bank's poorly drafted will which had cost their client just £90, led to a successful £400k claim against the bank after the client died.
Can I Challenge a Will the Deceased did not Understand?
If you believe that your loved-one did not understand the content of their will when they signed it, you could be able to bring a claim to challenge that will.
Many will disputes arise when one family member feels that the deceased was no longer capable of giving instructions when their will was created, usually because they were suffering from a degenerative illness such as dementia or Alzheimer's Disease.
In these circumstances, it is often necessary to obtain a copy of the solicitor's will file, as well as medical records, to check the circumstances in which the will was drawn up. It can often be necessary to seek the advice of an expert, to provide a retrospective report about the deceased's mental capacity at the date the will was signed.
If someone did not understand what they were signing, when they signed their will, it can be overturned by the Court. If a will if overturned in this way, the previous will of the deceased would become valid, or (if there was no previous will) the intestacy rules would apply.
What Can I do if Someone was Pressured Into Signing A Will?
If someone was pressured into leaving money to a certain person in their will, which can happen even if the deceased was not suffering from any illness which could have impaired their ability to make decisions, then their will can be challenged.
For example, an adult child still living at home in the expectation that they will receive the deceased's property after they die, can put pressure on the deceased during their lifetime to draft their will in a particular way, leaving out other siblings and family members.
In other cases, neighbours who might help the deceased during their lifetime with shopping or gardening, can pressurise the deceased, and suggest that they leave them something in their will, which can mean that family members are disinherited.
This type of pressure, if it means that the deceased feels they have to draft their will in a particular way, is known as duress or undue influence.
When Can a Will be Declared Invalid?
Wills can be declared invalid if they:
- fail to comply with certain legal and technical formalities;
- if they are obtained by duress or undue influence, against the wishes of the person making the will; or
- if the deceased did not have capacity when the will was made, for example if they have had a stroke or have advanced dementia.
What Can I do About a Forged Will?
In more unusual circumstances, a will could be a fake or a forgery. These claims can be difficult to prove, but challenges to fake wills can be brought in court.
In this type of case, we often need to instruct a handwriting or other expert who can provide their opinion about the signature on a will, using comparisons to handwriting and signatures of the deceased during their lifetime.
Disputes About Trusts
Trusts are often included in wills, and can be complex financial vehicles to manage money after someone passes away. A trust can be set up for the benefit of family members, often for the purpose of tax efficiency.
If trusts are not set up properly, or if they are not administered properly, there can be serious consequences for the beneficiaries of the trust.
The partners at Samuels have extensive experience of acting as professional trustees, and in bringing high value breach of trust claims against former trustees who have failed to administer trusts properly. If you are having problems with a trust, or with the trustees running the trust, then we will be able to help.
How Much Does It Cost To Dispute A Will?
It can be costly to bring a challenge to a will. We understand that you may not be in a position to fully fund a case where you want to dispute a will from the outset, which is why we try to help clients with fees wherever possible.
We strongly believe that you should have access to justice where you have a strong case and so we will always consider your funding options with you and help wherever we can. This can include conditional (no win no fee) agreements where you have a case with good prospects of success. In some cases, such as where there is a property will be sold, we can agree to defer our fees until the end of the case.
You may also have insurance, perhaps as part of your building and contents policy, which will help cover your legal fees. We will investigate this with you at the outset and can deal with your insurance company on your behalf.
Want to Dispute A Will?
Disputes concerning wills and inheritance can be particularly distressing for families, particularly those who have recently become bereaved. In these difficult circumstances, our experienced solicitors can advise quickly and effectively about what you should do, as the time limits you have to take action are often very short.
Samuels Solicitors have been assisting clients with disputes and problems concerning wills for over 30 years. We have a network of experts who can assist, including specialist counsel, capacity and medical experts, handwriting specialists and others.
If you have a dispute about your inheritance, if you want to dispute a will, or if you would like your existing will checked for free, contact us for a no obligation discussion today.
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