When and how can you challenge a will?

Contentious ProbateLosing a loved one can be an incredibly difficult and an emotional time for all those involved.

When you combine these emotions with any potential problems that may arise through the reading and distribution of assets from a will, this can then become  very complicated.

In the vast majority of cases when somebody dies, their will is dealt with swiftly and in line with their immediate wishes without cause for complaint. However, this is not always the case.

Contentious probate,  arises when there is a disagreement about the intended distribution of a person’s estate after they have passed away. This dispute could arise from many different reasons,  but most commonly a dispute will arise when a person believes the will did not leave them what they felt they deserved or were promised, or that someone has some concerns about how the will was made in the first place.

Our expert advice from partner, Andrew Bryan:

“Normally when people come to me with a contentious probate issue, they are very emotional as it has come as a surprise to them.  The most important thing I do is try and break down exactly what the situation entails as there is a lot of technical language and jargon used which can be quite overwhelming.

The best way to avoid getting into a situation in which someone makes a claim about a will is to have a well-made, legally approved, will drawn up. This will be respected by the judge, the family and anyone else involved avoiding the possibility of getting into contentious probate.”

So how will you know if you can challenge a will?

To make a claim you need to make sure that you fit into one of the following categories.

You need to be either:

  • A child or a person who was treated like a child of the family of the deceased
  • A spouse of the deceased
  • A former spouse of the deceased, but only if you have not remarried
  • A partner who lived with the deceased for at least two years immediately before the death
  • Someone who was supported financially by the deceased

You must also have evidence of at least one of the following:

  • The will does not accord with the deceased's wishes
  • There is a mistake of fact, for example an error made by the person who drafted the will
  • The deceased lacked mental capacity and didn’t fully understand the meaning and effect of what was in the will
  • The will was made under undue influence
  • The will was not executed properly
  • You feel you were unfairly treated or left out of the will by the deceased

We will always work on a case by case basis and, therefore, there may be certain time limits in which you have, to contest a will. The sooner you book an appointment with us the better so we can assess your situation and provide you with the best possible advice for going forward.


To speak to Andrew Bryan or another member of the contentious probate team please give us a call on 02392 820 747, email info@churchers.co.uk, or simply pop into one of our offices.

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