Contentious Probate and Will Disputes

When someone dies and the contents of their Will are revealed, relatives may be surprised or even distressed by its contents and as a result may try to challenge the Will. There are certain grounds on which it may be possible to dispute the validity of all or part of a Will, to make a claim to obtain a share of a deceased person’s estate or to challenge the way in which an estate is being administered.

Wills can only be challenged if the Will is invalid or in certain circumstances where particular individuals have not been provided for in the Will.

A Will may be invalid because the proper procedure has not been observed. The deceased should have been of sound mind at the time of making the Will to have been able to understand what they were doing and the consequences of their choices

In addition, certain categories of people who were financially dependent on the deceased can also sometimes make a claim against the estate. There are basically six such types of people:-

  • The spouse or civil partner
  • A former spouse or civil partner who has not remarried or formed a new civil partnership
  • Children
  • Step children
  • A partner who lived with the deceased for more than two years
  • Any other financial dependants

Regardless of the validity of the Will these people can apply to the Court to get a fair share of the deceased person’s estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. This is designed to allow the Court to make provision for the family and dependants of a deceased person and gives the Court the power to redistribute the estate. A six month limitation period applies to any claim under this Act from the date of issue of the Grant of Representation unless the Court gives permission to extend it.

You should consider seeking legal advice and possibly challenging a Will even if you owned a property jointly with the person who died and you are not mentioned in the Will. This also applies if you made a substantial contribution to the cost of any property that was in the sole name of the deceased at the time of their death. It may be that you have a claim which is independent of anything stated in the Will.

You may find that you have cause to contest the distribution of assets within an estate if you feel that you have been excluded from a Will unfairly. For example, in extended families one or both parties to a marriage may have remarried following a divorce or been living with a new partner, so often there is a second family, half siblings or step children at the point of death. Complex family structures such as this can often result in someone being omitted from the Will.

Alternatively you may feel that the deceased may have been influenced by other parties at the time of making their Will. Our increasingly aging and wealthy population means a greater likelihood of vulnerable adults falling victim to unscrupulous family members, friends or carers when making arrangements for the disposal of their assets after death. In some cases someone may unexpectedly leave the majority of their estate to a charity or other cause at the expense of family members.

If you feel you have cause to contest the distribution of an estate or challenge the validity of a Will it is important for you to act quickly. If you need further information or advice on a situation please contact Pam Deol on 0121 227 3878 or email

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