Losing a loved one is never easy, and dealing with the legal aspects of their passing can be overwhelming. When it comes to a person’s last will and testament, it is essential to ensure their wishes are respected. However, there are situations where you might have a legitimate reason to contest a will. In this post, we will explore the circumstances under which you can contest a will, the legal grounds for doing so and the steps involved in the process.
Lack of Testamentary Capacity
One of the primary reasons to contest a will is when you believe that the testator; the person who created the will, lacked the mental capacity to understand the consequences of their actions at the time the will was created. To contest a will on these grounds, you must demonstrate that the testator was not of sound mind when they made the will. This could be due to mental illness, dementia or any other condition affecting their mental capacity.
Undue influence occurs when someone exerts pressure, manipulation or coercion on the testator to make changes to their will against their true wishes. To contest a will based on undue influence, you must provide evidence that a person with a significant interest in the outcome of the will used their position of power to influence the testator.
Fraud or Forgery
If you suspect that the will was created through fraudulent means or contains forged signatures, you have the right to contest it. To prove this, you will need evidence that someone intentionally misrepresented the facts or falsified the document.
Wills must adhere to specific legal requirements for their execution, such as being witnessed by impartial individuals. If the will was not executed according to the current legislation, it can be contested. Contesting based on improper execution typically involves demonstrating that the document lacks the necessary signatures or witnesses.
Ambiguity or Uncertainty
Sometimes, a will may contain vague or unclear language, making it difficult to determine the testator’s true intentions. In such cases, you can contest the will by arguing that its terms are ambiguous, and therefore, it cannot be properly executed.
If you can prove that the testator revoked the will, either through a subsequent will or a deliberate act of destruction, you may contest the validity of the existing will. However, proving revocation can be challenging and often requires substantial evidence.
Lack of Knowledge and Approval
To contest a will on the grounds of lack of knowledge and approval, you must demonstrate that the testator did not understand or approve of the contents of the will. This may involve showing that the testator signed the will without fully comprehending its terms.
The Contesting Process
Contesting a will can be a complex legal process. To get started, you will begin with consulting an attorney. Seek legal counsel from experts like ours at Gillhams Solicitors to understand your rights, the validity of your case and the legal steps involved.
You must then file a complaint. Our Power of Attorney lawyers will help you file a complaint with the court outlining the reasons for contesting the will. Then, gather evidence; make sure you collect all relevant documents, witnesses and other evidence to support your case. Following the investigation, a potential hearing will begin. You should be prepared to attend court hearings to present your case, and be open to negotiations or mediation.
Finally, you will need to await the court’s decision. The court will review the evidence and make a decision regarding the validity of the will.
Can You Contest?
Contesting a will is not something to be taken lightly, and it is often a difficult and emotionally charged process. It is essential to consult with a qualified attorney to understand the specific laws and regulations in your jurisdiction and to help you navigate the legal procedures.
Remember that contesting a will should only be pursued when you genuinely believe there are valid grounds for doing so, and you should always respect the wishes of the deceased unless there are compelling reasons to challenge their will.
Need some further advice? Reach out to our dedicated team at Gillhams Solicitors by giving us a call 0208 965 4266, by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by filling in the relevant information in our online contact form and we will be happy to offer our advice and guidance during this time.