As the number of disputes over Wills grow, with the Courts having to rule in many cases, the question ‘Who can contest a Will?’ is being asked more and more often.
Basically, anyone who has a beneficial interest, or a potential beneficial interest, in the dead person’s estate can contest a Will if they feel they have a valid legal claim.
Most often, those contesting a Will are the surviving spouse, children, cohabitee or other dependents including adult children who were being financially supported by the deceased and children who were treated as a close family member even if they were not actually related.
Please see our legal guide What are the Grounds for Contesting a Will? to read more about what these are.
Typically, people who contest a Will, fall into one of the following categories:
Most Wills are contested by family member.
If a Will is contested, and declared invalid, any previous Will made by the testator will be admitted to probate instead.
If there wasn’t a previous Will, the estate will be treated as if there was never any Will in the first place which means the rules of intestacy apply.
Intestacy means someone has died without leaving a valid Will and means the estate will be distributed under certain rules with a strict order as to who can inherit. Only direct family will inherit under intestacy, not unmarried partners or friends.
Being a blood relative can be very important, particularly under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 which specifically lists those entitled to claim. This includes the spouse of the deceased and the deceased’s children even if those children are now adults.
Someone who was financially dependent on the deceased
Someone who was financially reliant or maintained by the deceased person can contest a Will. For example, someone who was helped financially or provided with accommodation by the deceased.
A beneficiary under the Will or an earlier Will
A beneficiary who has not received their inheritance due to the failure of an executor can make a claim on the grounds that the executor may be acting unreasonably in failing to distribute the estate. Also, a beneficiary named in an earlier Will may be able to claim.
Someone owed money
Sometimes, those you are owed money can make a claim against an estate if a Section 27 Notice has been issued seeking creditors to come forward.
Promised something by the deceased?
If you were promised land or property or individual items by the deceased, and then these were not left to you in the Will to your detriment, it may be possible to claim.
For help and advice about contesting a Will, please contact Wards Solicitors’ Probate Disputes team