There are a number of ways that you can claim against your loved one’s Estate if you feel that you have been unreasonably excluded from it or you haven’t received what you expected or were promised.
Challenging the validity of a Will
So long as you benefit from your loved one’s Estate under a previous Will (or Intestacy if there was no Will) then you are entitled to challenge the validity of the deceased’s last Will.
There are 5 grounds for doing so:-
– Lack of testamentary capacity (due to a medical condition they lacked the capability of understanding what they were doing);
– Want of Knowledge and Approval (they may have had capacity but they didn’t understand what they were signing – perhaps as they didn’t read it properly and were misled as to what they were signing);
– Undue Influence (this is a high burden of proof close to coercion, i.e. being forced to sign);
– Fraud (a forged signature);
– Failure to Comply with Formalities (e.g. the witnesses and the deceased were not all in the same room at the same time when the Will was signed).
If one of the above grounds is successful the effect will be to strike out the last Will and distribute the Estate in accordance with a previous Will (if there is one) or Intestacy Rules (if there is no previous Will). The Intestacy Rules are the statutory provisions which govern the distribution of the estate where there is no Will or no valid Will.
A Claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975 (“the 1975 Act”)
Certain classes of people can bring a claim under the 1975 Act including spouses, former spouses, cohabitees, children and other financial dependants.
If the Court considers it unreasonable for the applicant to have received nothing (or the sum they have received is unreasonable) the Court can redistribute the division of the Estate according to what it deems appropriate regardless of whether a Will is valid or not. This claim can be brought against an Estate irrespective of whether there is a Will or not.
This is a discretionary claim and the Court will weigh a number of factors when deciding what provision to make for a disappointed beneficiary.
See our second instalment (here) to see the range of awards the Court can make in such cases.
Get a Specialist
There are a number of possible claims which can be pursued against an Estate when your loved one dies. However, these claims are complex and at times discretionary so it is imperative that you instruct a specialist to maximise your chances of a successful outcome.
Don’t delay, call us today to see if you have a meritorious claim.
Hayley Bundey is a solicitor in the inheritance and trust disputes team at Stephens Scown LLP. The team has recently retained its top tier ranking from Legal 500, an independent guide to the legal profession. The guide credits the team as ‘amongst the very best in the South West’ and highlights the ‘real specialist knowledge and strength in depth which it uses to good effect to get great results’. To get in touch with Hayley, please call 01392 210700, email email@example.com.