Legal

In What Circumstances Can You Challenge a Will?

When a person passes away, his or her estate is distributed according to the instructions set out in their last will and testament. Most of the time, the will is executed properly, and the beneficiaries accept the inheritance without dispute. However, there are certain circumstances when the validity of a will may be questioned and contested by family members or beneficiaries who believe it does not represent the true wishes of the deceased. This can lead to a contentious legal process known as a will contest.

Lack of Testamentary Capacity

One of the most common grounds for contesting a will is that the deceased lacked testamentary capacity at the time the will was made. This means they did not fully understand the implications of their decisions, potentially due to medical conditions like dementia or the influence of medications. If there is evidence the deceased was not of sound mind, and a prior will exists which differs significantly from the contested version, the newer will may be declared invalid.

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Undue Influence

Suspicions of undue influence can also form the basis of a will contest. This means that the deceased was coerced into making decisions about their estate by a malicious third party who exploited them for personal gain. For example, if a younger caretaker or companion isolated an elderly testator and influenced them to disinherit family members in favour of the caretaker, the evidence must show that the deceased’s free will was compromised.

Fraud and Forgery

Allegations of fraud or forgery can arise if aspects of the will or signatures appear altered or dishonest. Duress is also considered in this category if the testator was forced into signing the will through threats, blackmail, etc. In these cases, handwriting experts may be brought in to assess signatures and claims made about false promises or dishonest behaviour towards the deceased.

Improper Execution

There are precise legal requirements for executing a valid will, such as having appropriate witnesses. If it is discovered that the will was not executed correctly – for instance, if proper procedures for signatures were not followed – the will may be struck down. Executors must be able to show the testator knew and approved of the will’s contents and signed voluntarily. Procedural mistakes can, therefore, weaken the will’s validity.

Discovery of a Newer Will

A more recent will discovered after the death may also override an existing will if it clearly outlines newer intentions. Earlier wills can be revoked if the testator explicitly states this in a newer document or issues a revocation notice. Even handwritten updates may be taken into account. If evidence shows the deceased changed their wishes, the newest version usually prevails.

Seeking Legal Advice

If you wish to contest the will of a deceased family member or believe you have valid grounds to challenge it, seek legal advice from probate solicitors in your area. They will be able to assess the strength of your case based on the evidence and applicable laws. With their guidance, they can represent you through the probate dispute process and help ensure the deceased’s true final wishes are recognised. Using expert solicitors Hertfordshire for will disputes improves your chances of success.

Contesting a will can be a lengthy and emotional process, but it may be necessary to ensure a deceased person’s final wishes are properly recognised and carried out. Seeking legal counsel from experienced probate solicitors offers the best chance to navigate will disputes, particularly if there is compelling evidence the will in question is legally invalid or does not reflect the testator’s intentions. With the right representation and a valid claim, it is possible to overturn a problematic will and reach a fair resolution.

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