Suffering a bereavement is stressful, but it is even more difficult when you have reason to question the will left by the deceased (or whether they even left one at all). In some cases, it might be necessary to start Court proceedings to determine whether there was a will, or whether the will is actually valid.
Generally, a person can leave his money and other assets to whoever he wishes by making a will – no-one is obliged to pass on their estate to their spouse or children, or even to be fair about what is in a will. The wishes in a person’s will are usually upheld. If no will is left, then the estate will be divided according to the intestacy rules which sets out who gets what.
However, there are circumstances where it is possible to challenge a will or an intestacy.
You can challenge a will where it has not been made properly (for example it has not been signed) or where it appears that the person writing the will did not know or approve of the terms (for example where it has been signed by someone who is blind with no indication that it was read out to them beforehand). You can also challenge a will which 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 – in other words, they are not of sound mind (for example because of dementia).
Under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 it is also possible to make a claim against an estate (whether there is a will or not) for an award where the will or intestacy rules do not make reasonable financial provision for you. For example, if you are a spouse or child of the deceased who has been maintained by the deceased, and you are then left out of their will.
It is also possible to challenge the way in which an estate is being, or has been, administered. 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, you can go to Court to make sure that things are done properly. 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, and have a lot of experience of applying it to all sorts of different cases. We are approachable and friendly – we understand that legal proceedings in these circumstances are extremely stressful, and we work with you to achieve the best result. That might mean going to Court or might mean securing an out of court settlement on your behalf.