Death is inevitable, and when it strikes, we, the living, are left to pay our last respects to the deceased as well as fulfill their wishes. Most people write their last Will and Testament while they are still alive to make their wishes known to the ones left behind and also avoid any unnecessary disputes. If all the concerned parties are happy with it, then it is executed peacefully. But this is not always the case. In some instances, one or more parties may not be satisfied due to several reasons. When that happens to you, you will need to contest that Will to exert fairness.
Contesting a will is not easy. The process can be long, time-consuming, and costly, and in the worst-case scenario, results in enmity between families. You must confirm that the process is absolutely necessary; before you start anything. Also, ensure that you use the right procedure in order to succeed.
In this article, you will learn more about contesting a will and the best way to go about it.
- Get Copies of All the Relevant Documents
As soon as you feel that everything is not right, you need to scan or photocopy the Important documents and keep the copies with you. One of those documents is a Will. The executor does not have any legal obligation to disclose the Will so, expect some level of resistance. You can use the protocols put in place to persuade them to share the documentation, but if that does not work, it’s time for you to find a solicitor.
- Confirm that You Qualify to Contest the Will
In matters contesting Will, not everyone qualifies. Generally, family members Ie. children, spouses, or anyone else related to the Testator can contest a Will. But there is another set of people who also qualify. Below is a complete breakdown of all the people who can challenge a will;
- Family members- blood relatives and spouse
- Anyone entitled to the inheritance as per the Will but is not included
- Anyone who was entitled to gain inheritance under in a previous Will
- Creditors- anyone owed money by the deceased
- Anyone whom the deceased had promised inheritance, verbally or in written form, but is not part of the Will
- Establish Your Grounds
Once you confirm that you qualify to challenge the Will, now you need to establish the legal basis of your argument. Below are the grounds to contest a Will, to give you a general idea:
I. Inheritance (Family and Dependants Provision) Act 1972
If you were a dependent of the deceased (for accommodation or financial support), you have a right to inherit from the deceased. The inheritance Act will help you claim your fair share: in case you did not receive anything or feel like your share is not reasonable.
Ii. If the Will is Invalid
A will is valid if;
- Signed by the deceased (person who writes the Will) or the person they appoint to sign on their behalf in their presence in case he/she is unable to
- It was the intention of the Testator that the Will be valid at the time of the signing.
- The Testator signed it in front of two witnesses who must sign the Will too.
Iii. Mental Incapacity
The Testators must be mentally sound at the time of signing the Will. He/she must be able to understand their property worth as well as the ramification of their decisions at the time of signing. Any disorder or illnesses or anything else that can influence or inhibit their view at the time of signing is grounds to contest the Will.
A forged will is not valid. That is if; someone falsifies the signature of the deceased or uses trickery to influence them to add or exclude someone in the Will.
V. If the Deceased did not Know or Approve what they were Signing
The will is not valid if the Testator had no knowledge of its content when they were signing. If you have proof that the Testator was not aware of what they were signing, you have grounds to contest.
If you can prove that the Testator was forced in any way to sign the Will, you have a right to contest it.
- Be Aware of the Time Limits
The time limits to take action varies depending on the nature of your case.
- Inheritance Act and Rectification claims: six months from when the grant is issued
- Inheritor contending the Will: 12 years from Testator’s death
- Making a claim against the executor for misappropriation of assets: No time limit
It is always advisable to make your claim as soon as possible.
Here you can choose between negotiation and litigation. Always start by negotiating because it is faster and cheaper. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work most of the time. If you proceed to litigation, find yourself a competent solicitor to take you through the whole process.
While it is not easy, it is still possible to successfully challenge a will. But only if you follow these steps and rely on the best legal advice. Always; remember that time is of the essence so, don’t waste your time if you have a valid claim.