Suffering a bereavement is one of the most stressful experiences in life. It is even worse when you have cause to question the will left by the deceased (or whether they even left one at all). At a time when you might expect your close family to pull together, it could be that disagreements and family feuds come to the fore – making the whole process more difficult.
Generally, a person can leave his money and other assets to whoever he wishes by making a will. The wishes in a person’s will are usually upheld, and so it is crucial to ensure that if you make a will, it is kept up to date. Marriage may invalidate a will, but divorce won’t, which can lead to some unexpected results.
If no will is left, then the estate will be divided according to the intestacy rules. This may mean that someone who expects to inherit, for example a cohabitee, might get nothing whereas someone who does not expect to inherit, such as an estranged child, does.
However, there are circumstances where it is possible to challenge a will or an intestacy.
Under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 it is possible to make a claim against an estate (whether there is a will or not) where the will or intestacy rules do not make reasonable financial provision for you. We can advise you on what is likely to be reasonable in your case – it will be different for everyone. For example, if you are a co-habitee who has been left nothing under the intestacy rules (and possibly stand to lose your home), or if you have previously been maintained by someone who has died then you may be able to claim.
You can challenge a will where it has not been made properly (for example it has not been signed) or where it is forged. You can challenge a will where it has been made as a result of undue influence where someone has put pressure on the deceased to include certain terms or benefit certain people. You can also challenge a will where it has been made by someone who does not have capacity because they are not of sound mind (for example because of dementia).
You can also challenge the way in which an estate is being, or has been, administered. For example, if it is taking too long, or you are not given information or (in the worst cases) if you do not receive what you are entitled to. We can advise you on holding the personal representatives of an estate to account to ensure that you get what is owed to you.
All of these types of cases require specialist solicitors. We know the law in this area inside out, and are experts in conducting will challenges. However, we also understand that you need someone who will take the time to understand the emotional background – particularly where you are in dispute with your own family. We will work with you to find the best solution to your issues – whether that ultimately involves going to Court, or securing an out of court settlement on your behalf. We are great at thinking up creative solutions to complicated problems, and at dealing with cases where there are a lot of people (and history) involved.