Contest a will

If you have grounds to contest a will, it's vital that you seek legal advice as soon as possible. Tees' expert solicitors can guide you through the process of challenging a will.

Sara Stabler, Cambridge
Sara Stabler, dispute resolution and litigation specialist in Cambridge

Contesting a will lawyers: Expert legal advice

As wills, trusts and probate solicitors, we wish everyone would make a will. Unfortunately, even when they do, the will doesn’t always make it clear what the deceased person wanted or intended. People can have widely differing views of what the deceased person meant. Or, you may have concerns over the validity of the will. It can come as a bit of a shock if you realise that the deceased person’s will isn’t what you were expecting, perhaps due to a previous promise made to you by the deceased. You’ll want to talk to someone who has the knowledge and experience to help you decide what to do for the best.

Can I contest a will?

Yes. There are a range of circumstances where it is possible and possibly a good idea depending on your situation. Our specialist contentious probate solicitors can guide you through the legal process - and help you secure a favourable outcome. Our team includes members of the Association of Contentious Trusts and Probate Specialists (ACTAPS) and the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP).

Grounds for contesting a will

There are various reasons why you might challenge someone’s will, listed below. You can also read our guide to grounds for contesting a will.

  • Lack of capacity - if you believe that the person didn’t have the mental capacity to make their will or change it.
  • Inheritance: Provision for dependants - you can challenge someone’s will if you think they haven’t made reasonable provision for their dependants - for example, a co-habitee, spouse or civil partner, their minor children or adult children in constrained financial circumstances.
  • Fraudulent will, forgery or improper execution - you can challenge a will if you think it’s a forgery or if you think it may not have been executed in the actual presence of the witnesses named in the will.
  • Undue influence - if you believe that the deceased person was coerced by someone else to make their will in a certain way. 
  • Read our guide to grounds for contesting a will. 

Time limit to contest a will

The time limits in this situation vary. For a claim under the Inheritance Act, the time limit is six months from the date of the Grant of Probate. To contest the will, for example on the grounds of capacity or fraud, the same time limit does not apply. However, many people aim to wind up estates within 12 months, so it’s sensible to proceed as soon as possible. If the possessions that made up the estate have already been distributed, obviously this is likely to make it harder for you to get anything back that you may be due, so it’s always sensible to get advice and proceed as quickly as possible. Claims made a long time after the event could also be more complicated and therefore expensive.

Challenging a will: confidential advice

Our wills solicitors have the legal expertise and practical knowledge to help sort out disagreements over a will. Give us a call for a confidential conversation and let's talk about how we can help.

Our specialist wills and probate lawyers are based in:

  • Cambridgeshire: Cambridge
  • Essex: Brentwood, Chelmsford, and Saffron Walden
  • Hertfordshire: Bishop's Stortford and Royston 

But we can help you wherever you are in England and Wales.

Call our specialist solicitors on 0808 231 1320

Contesting a will: FAQs

What happens when a Will is contested?

A Will can only be contested on specific legal grounds.  If the party who intends to contest the Will is unable to reach a resolution with the executors and beneficiaries of the Will, then an application will need to be made to court, setting out the basis of the challenge to the Will.

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Who can contest a Will?

Anyone with a claim against an estate that relates to the content, drafting or execution of the Will can potentially challenge a Will.  The most common claimants are spouses, children, family members or dependants of the deceased and beneficiaries of the Will, or creditors.  Claims can also be made against an estate if a claimant was promised to be remembered in the Will by the deceased, which they relied on, but did not receive.  Close family members, dependants and cohabitees can also make an claim against an estate on the basis that the Will failed to make reasonable provision for them.

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When can I contest a Will?

Usually, it is important to take advice quickly following a death, for a number of reasons, if you think you may have a claim.  A claim for reasonable provision must be issued within 6 months of the grant of probate  (which can be extended in certain circumstances). Therefore, it is necessary to contact the executors of the estate as soon as possible, to try and reach an agreement, without having to issue court proceedings.  The same time limit does not apply if you are challenging the Will, but it is sensible to proceed as soon as possible, as so as to avoid unnecessary evidential difficulties and to avoid adverse tax or cost implications for the estate. 

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How do you contest a Will?

It is sensible to engage the services of a specialist solicitor.  They will contact the executors of the Will on your behalf to notify them of your potential claim.  Depending on the type of claim you have, your solicitor may recommend that a caveat is entered to prevent a grant of probate being obtained in respect of the Will.  If resolution of your claim cannot be agreed between you and the executors and beneficiaries of the Will, an application to the court may be necessary.

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Who pays to contest a Will?

Each party is responsible for their own legal costs.  An agreement may be reached whereby your legal costs are paid by the estate.  If your claim is determined by the court and you succeed, you can ask the court to determine which party should pay your costs.

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How much does it cost to contest a Will?

The overall cost of  dispute will depend on the issues involved, the number of witnesses and documentary evidence involved, whether expert evidence is needed and the point at which a case is concluded.

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What constitutes undue influence in a Will?

Undue influence is where pressure, coercion or undue influence is exerted on the testator (the person making the will) so as to procure a Will in particular terms, that is not the expression or result of their own free will.

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Is it hard to contest a Will?

The basis on which a Will might be contested will depend on the particular circumstances.  Evidence might be gathered from witnesses, documents and/or experts.  A specialist solicitor will be able to represent you and advise as to how best to proceed. 

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Can wills be contested on behalf of someone else?

A claim could be issued by a litigation friend for a minor or by an attorney.  Otherwise, the court would expect the claim to be issued by the person with the claim.

Do I need to involve a court for contesting a Will?

In the first instance there is an obligation on the parties to a dispute to attempt resolution without litigation via Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).  If this is not possible court proceedings will be necessary.

Can I contest a will based on mental capacity?

Yes. A Will can be challenged on the ground that at the date instructions were given and/or the Will executed the testator lacked capacity.  Medical records, witness evidence and expert psychiatric evidence is likely to be needed to prove the claim.  

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