Defending a contested will solicitors

Explore how we can help you with any legal requirements connected to a private wealth dispute.

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If you’re navigating through the complexities of a will challenge as an executor or beneficiary, Moore Barlow is here to guide you.

Our solicitors, with their profound experience in defending contested wills, bring forth the expertise to resolve your disputes promptly and equitably. Our assistance extends to various scenarios, including:

  • Contesting the validity of a will.
  • Bringing a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
  • Challenging estate divisions in the absence of a will.
  • Opposing your removal as the estate’s executor.
  • Making a claim for Proprietary Estoppel.

Defending challenges to a Will can be not only emotionally taxing but also introduce delays in estate administration and potentially diminish your entitlement as a beneficiary. In addition to emotional strain, the situation can also have cost implications.

We commit to safeguarding your position and always aim to bring the dispute to a swift, effective resolution. Boasting an expert and specialist team, our knowledge and experience are at your service, whether you’re a beneficiary or an executor.

Contact us today for more information by calling us or complete our online form, and we’ll promptly return your call.

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Scott Taylor

Scott Taylor

Partner | Private wealth disputes

01483 464274

How do I defend a contested will?

Defending a contested will in the UK typically involves a comprehensive understanding of the legal frameworks surrounding wills and estate planning. It’s often a complex and sensitive process, considering the emotive nature of dealing with a deceased person’s estate. Below are some general steps and considerations to bear in mind.

Immediate steps

Secure legal representation

One of the initial and pivotal steps in defending a contested will is to secure proficient legal representation. Engaging a solicitor, particularly one who specialises in wills and probate law, provides a foundational bedrock for navigating through the multifaceted legal processes ahead.

Our professionals will be able to guide you through the applicable law, required documentation, and likely proceedings pertaining to your case. Our solicitors have a proven track record in handling defending contested wills, ensuring that we bring experience and expertise to your specific situation.

Obtain the will

After securing legal representation, the subsequent step is to try and obtain the original will (or at least a copy of the will) that is being contested.

The will acts as a central piece of evidence and will be vital to verify its legitimacy and the wishes of the person who has now passed. Any variations or updates made to the will need to be duly noted and analysed to guarantee that the most recent and valid version is being defended in any contestation.

Gather relevant documents

Along with obtaining the will, it is also vital to collate all relevant documents that might be pertinent to the case. This includes previous versions of the will, any correspondence that alludes to the testator’s wishes (such as letters and emails), and any other communication or documents, such as medical records, that may be relevant in establishing the intent and mental capacity of the testator when the will was executed.

This evidence will be integral in corroborating the validity of the will and rebutting any claims to the contrary during the legal proceedings.

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Understand the grounds for contestation

Ensure you fully understand the reasons behind the contestation. Common grounds include:

  • Lack of valid execution: Ensuring the will was signed and witnessed correctly.
  • Lack of capacity: The testator must have been of sound mind when the will was made.
  • Undue influence: Establishing that the will was made without coercion or manipulation.
  • Lack of knowledge and approval: Confirming that the testator fully understood and approved the will’s contents.
  • Fraud or forgery: Addressing claims of deceit or misrepresentation.
  • Provision for dependents: Dependents may contest if they believe the provision made for them is insufficient.

Strategic considerations:

  • Communication and mediation:
    • Explore the possibility of resolution through dialogue and negotiation.
    • Consider mediation as a way to resolve disputes outside of court.
  • Probate process:
    • Initiate the probate process by submitting the will to the probate registry.
  • Defensive documentation:
    • Collect and organise documentation that validates the authenticity of the will and the deceased’s mental capacity.
    • Gather evidence to negate claims of undue influence or forgery.
  • Witness statement:
    • Identify and prepare witnesses who might support the defence, including the witnesses who signed the will or medical professionals who can attest to the deceased’s mental capacity at the time they made the will.
  • Expert statement:
    • In certain circumstances, you may need an expert statement (e.g., handwriting experts) to refute claims of forgery.

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Legal proceedings:

  • Prepare for court:
    • Collaborate with your legal team to prepare for potential court proceedings.
    • Ensure all evidence, documents, and witnesses are ready.
  • Present the case:
    • Your legal counsel will present the case defending the validity of the will.
    • Be prepared for a potentially lengthy legal battle, especially if the estate is substantial or if the contesting parties are determined.
  • Settlement discussions:
    • Be open to settlement discussions at any time of the proceedings to avoid protracted legal battles.
  • The outcome:
    • If the will’s validity is upheld, the probate process continues, and assets will be distributed as per the will.
  • Appeal:
    • Be mindful of the possibility of an appeal and discuss potential scenarios and responses with your legal team.

Additional notes

  • Emotional preparedness: Ensure you’re emotionally prepared for potential conflicts with family members or close relations.
  • Financial planning: Legal disputes can be costly. Ensure you have considered the financial aspects of defending a contested will.

Remember that every case is unique, and the actual process might differ based on your circumstances and jurisdiction. Always work closely with your legal counsel to navigate through the complexities of defending a contested will.

Who pays to defend a will?

The individual wishing to challenge a will bears the initial legal costs of the contestation. If the challenge is successful, the unsuccessful party may be ordered by the court to pay the legal expenses incurred by the winning party in the will dispute. Engaging with a solicitor and obtaining legal advice on will contestation is recommended.

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Discover how our expert private wealth dispute lawyers can help you.

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