On What Grounds Can I Contest A Will?
Losing a loved one is always difficult. But it can be made more difficult if it appears that their will does not match the wishes of the deceased that they expressed when they were alive. Where it seems that the contents of the will are at odds with what was expected, there may be the opportunity to contest the will, if one or more of the following grounds are met.
Lack of testamentary capacity
Put most simply, was the deceased of ‘sound mind, memory and understanding’ at the time that the will was made. This is assessed using several parameters, which include:
- Whether they are able to understand that they are making a will, and what that means;
- Whether they have a good understanding of the value and content of their estate;
- If they understand the potential impact of their actions on those they include or exclude;
- And are not suffering from any ‘disorder of mind’, which could be affecting their ability to make rational decisions.
If there are concerns about any of these factors, then there are potentially grounds for contesting a will.
Undue influence or coercion
If it is believed that someone was unduly influenced, coerced or under duress to make gifts within their will, then there is room to challenge it.
This is a more difficult case to prove, and a high standard of evidence is required to demonstrate that there is no other reasonable explanation for the decisions made by the deceased. Any type of abuse, whether physical or verbal, may be considered a form of coercion, particularly where the deceased was sick or vulnerable.
Lack of valid execution
A will may be challenged if it fails to meet the regulations laid out in the s.9 Wills Act of 1837, which states that:
- The will must be in writing and signed by the deceased, or on behalf of the deceased, in their presence, at the request of the deceased.
- That the deceased intended the will to come into force through putting their signature on the document.
- That there are at least two witnesses to the signing of the will, and all witnesses have signed the will declaring that they saw the will be signed by the deceased.
It is worth noting that there are strict rules about who may or may not witness a will, with unsuitable witnesses being another ground for contesting a will.
Lack of knowledge and approval
When writing a will, the person must be fully aware of the contents of the will, and be in full agreement with the decisions made. Even if the will appears to have been properly executed, and there are no grounds to assume that the deceased was lacking mental capacity, then it may still be possible to challenge it.
In this case, it must be shown that the deceased was not fully aware of the contents, or that the will was written in suspicious circumstances. One example of this is where the will is changed substantially in favour of the person who helped to prepare the document.
Fraudulent or forged wills
Where a will has been forged, then this is an obvious ground for challenging a will. But where a will has been altered due to misinformation or deception, this is classed as fraud, and provides grounds for contesting the will.
For those concerned about the validity of a will, then Robinsons Solicitors can help. Our friendly expert solicitors will help assess if you have a case, and guide you throughout the process.