Grounds for Contesting an Estate or Will

The pain of losing a loved one can be made worse when there are issues surrounding their Will or Estate. It’s not uncommon for disputes to arise when people feel they’ve been treated unfairly or have been left out of the Will entirely.

To contest an Estate you need to fall into a set category of relationship:

  • Spouse (or ex-spouse who has not remarried)
  • Child or step-child
  • Cohabiting partner for more than two years

And you need to demonstrate that you were financially dependent on the deceased.

Grounds for Contesting a Will

Where there is doubt over the validity of the Will itself, there are several grounds for challenge, which we’ll outline below.

Testamentary Incapacity

You can contest a Will if you suspect or believe that the testator was not of sound mind when they had it made, or if they lacked the mental capacity to produce an accurate and fair one.

Examples of testamentary capacity include:

  • Insanity
  • Dementia (or loss of memory)
  • Senility

Undue Influence

If a testator has been manipulated by a person or a party and this has affected the Will, this is known as undue influence. An example would be where one relative or one side of the family receives a larger chunk of the testator’s assets than seems fair.

Another example could be the inclusion of a surprise beneficiary – in other words, someone whose inclusion as a beneficiary seems odd.

Fraud or Forgery

If the deceased’s Will is made behind their back by someone else – usually someone who wishes to benefit from the Will – this is classed as forgery. Suppose Joan has a Will made for Agnes without Agnes’s knowledge (so that she inherits Agnes’s assets, for example) this is fraud.

There can be a crossover between fraud and undue influence. Say a potential beneficiary lies to the testator about something another potential beneficiary has done or said – and this lie influences the distribution of assets in the testator’s Will – this again is fraud.

Forging a testator’s signature is another form of Will fraud – even if the content of the Will itself is correct and perfectly reflects the wishes of the testator.

Invalid Execution

A Will can be classed as invalid – and can therefore be contested – if it fits into any of the following categories:

  • It is not signed by the testator (or by someone the testator directly instructed to do so, in person)
  • There were not at least two witnesses present at the signing of the Will
  • The witnesses did not sign it following the testator’s signing

Call Slater Heelis for Will Disputes Advice

Although it’s clear to you that there’s something wrong with your loved one’s Will, the court doesn’t automatically see it the same way. It needs to be proven from a legal perspective – and the burden of proof lies with you.

This is where we can help.

Slater Heelis has a team that specialises in Wills, Trusts and Probate matters. Our highly experienced lawyers know when and how to contest a Will, and will help you present a strong case to the court.

Call us on 0161 969 3131 to talk to one of our specialists, or fill in our quick-and-easy contact form.