When a member of your family, a close friend or loved one passes away and you believe there is a discernible error within their will left behind, or that it has not been correctly implemented, then you could have a valid reason to legally contest the contents of their will in court.
The process of contesting a will is often complex, which makes expert legal advice essential to validate your situation before committing to formal legal proceedings. This comprehensive guide covers all aspects involved with contesting a will and outlines the necessary steps that need to be taken to submit a successful claim.
How to contest a Will
The validity of the Will document can be contested on because it was not properly signed because the person making the Will was not of sound mind or that the Will was made under duress ie the undue influence of someone. A person who was a dependent on the deceased in Northern Ireland, who has not been properly provided for, can also challenge the implementation of a Will under The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) (NI) Order 1979.
Who can contest a Will?
The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) (NI) Order 1979 act provides that certain categories of people who believe they should have been provided for. These people may not have been included in the will but may have grounds to dispute the will of the deceased person because they had a responsibility to provide for certain members of their family and/or other dependents. There is no set list of people who are guaranteed success when challenging a Will, and the circumstances of each case will be examined.
Grounds for appeal include the following:
- Lack of testamentary capacity – The person creating the terms of the will, known as the testator, must be of sound mind when they create and sign the document. They must understand the full extent of their estate and possessions and understand who they are choosing to include and exclude.
- Lack of due execution – The testator must sign their will in the presence of at least two formal witnesses who are present at the time of signing. Each witness must then also give a signed receipt that they have witnessed the signing of the will by the testator. If there is any evidence to suggest otherwise, then a claim of lack of due execution may then be raised.
- Undue coercion – A claim may be raised if there is significant evidence to suggest that the testator has been manipulated into submitting unfair or invalid terms within their will. Due to the nature of this claim, the supporting evidence must be of a high standard to stand any chance of it being successful.
- Fraud – It’s possible to contest a will if the claimant has valid grounds to suggest that the will has been forged in any way. For instance, if a testator instructs another person to formalise the terms of their will, and then that person submits false terms to benefit themselves and forges the signature of the testator, then the will may be overturned and declared fraudulent.
Challenging a Will
When someone is contesting a Will under the provisions of this legislation, they make an inheritance provision claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) (NI) Order 1979. In Northern Ireland many of these inheritance provisional claims can be settled out of court by negotiation.
How long do you have to contest a will?
The information below details the most common types of claims and the allotted time in which they must be made:
- Inheritance act – Six months from the issue of the grant of probate
- Claim for maintenance – Six months from the issue of the grant of probate
- Beneficiary making claim against the will – 12 years from date of the death
- Fraud – No time limit
Contact one of our expert solicitors
It is greatly beneficial to seek legal advice from a specialist solicitor at McPartland & Sons as there is a time limit to contesting a Will under this legislation. If you believe you have a valid reason to contest a will one of our experts will be able to assess whether or not you may have a claim and explain the process of contesting a Will and advise you on how to get started.
Related blog: The Dangers Associated with DIY Wills