There can be many valid reasons to contest a Will – especially if you believe it was not what the deceased actually intended.
Many people believe that once a Will has been made, there’s nothing that can be done to change it. This is perhaps something that the old phrases ‘final wishes’ and ‘last Will and testament’ serve to reinforce.
What’s more, some people feel that in some way it is bad taste to contest the provisions of a Will. They feel somehow that it is disrespecting the person who has unfortunately died.
But what if the reality is that the deceased (the testator) did not intend the outcome of the Will, for example to deprive their children from receiving the estate or part of it?
The fact is that it is possible to contest a Will, and there can be entirely valid and reasonable grounds for doing so. This is why parliament introduced the Inheritance (Provision and Dependants) Act 1975 (“the Inheritance Act”).
It’s something that is becoming more common, and indeed we see examples of it at all levels of society. Recently, for example, the Daily Telegraph reported that the two sons of television actress Lynda Bellingham were taking legal action to challenge her Will amidst claims that their stepfather was ‘squandering’ the estate. Everything had been left to the stepfather – but the sons claim that their mother had assured them that they would be well provided for. The Daily Telegraph reported that: “She said she would leave her money to Mr Pattemore (the stepfather), but he would pass it on to them later and trusts would be set up to ensure money for them.”
But the sons allege that there have been no signs of this happening and so a legal challenge looks ever more likely.
I don’t think many people would blame a child or children from challenging a Will where everything has been left to a step parent and where, despite having been promised that they would be provided for, nothing is forthcoming.
We live in a complex society today where it is not uncommon for children to be deprived of their parents’ estates by their step parents or through complex family arrangements. Should people be saying that a testator’s wishes should be respected when had the testator been asked the question, ‘was this what you really intended?’ they would probably have said no?
In many cases, therefore, people disputing Wills are merely trying to establish the outcome that they believe the testator would have wanted.
There are several grounds upon which the validity of a Will may be challenged, including that the testator lacked the necessary capacity to make the Will, did not know or approve its contents, or was coerced or unduly influenced into making it, amongst others. There are also other claims such as claims under the Inheritance Act that can be made irrespective of whether there is a valid Will.
If you believe you have been deprived from the provision of an estate or would like to consider challenging an inheritance, our experienced team at Stephens Scown possess the specialist expertise to be able to help you.