Recent research shows that 78 per cent of people wouldn’t go against the wishes of someone’s will, but is this necessarily the case?
Slater and Gordon undertook some research into people’s thoughts and attitudes towards wills and inheritance, with some very interesting results. The one that stood out was when asked “Would you fight it if you didn’t get what you considered to be a fair share in your parents’ will?”, the majority of people said that they wouldn’t.
Recent Government figures, however, show that contested wills are on the rise. There has been a 20 per cent increase in the number of wills being challenged in court over the past 10 years.
So why do people contest wills?
There are a number of reasons someone might feel that they’ve been hard done by when a will is read. It can range from purely feeling they deserve more, to actually being promised something and the promise not being recorded.
There are also legal grounds for contesting a will:
- Lack of capacity. This is when it’s believed that the person who wrote the will was not of sound mind. For a will to be valid, a person must understand that they are making a will and what its effect will be. They must also know the nature and value of their estate. They should understand the consequences of what they put in their will.
- Lack of valid execution. A will has to be executed correctly to be valid. So it must be in writing and signed by the person whose will it is. The signature must be made in the presence of two witnesses who must also sign the document.
- Lack of knowledge. The person writing the will must have knowledge of the contents of their will, and they must approve it.
- Undue influence. The person writing the will must not be forced or coerced into putting anything down that they don’t approve of. If it’s proven that someone else put pressure on the will writer then the will can be declared void.
- Fraud. If the will has been written and signed by someone else pretending to be the person who is leaving the estate, then the will would be invalid.
There are other reasons for contesting a will, including promises made prior to death that aren’t honoured in the will. For example, proprietary estoppel is a claim to property promised to you due to the fact that you relied on it, or worked on it, on the proviso that it would be yours. So if you can prove that the property owner said it would be yours once they passed, you worked on the land or property at a detriment to yourself with the belief that it would be yours, and that you put yourself in a worse position by doing so, then you may have a claim to it.
Another case for contesting a will could be that you are dependent on the deceased but have not been left anything in their will. The time limit for this type of contest is very short and you must fall into one of the claimant categories listed in the Inheritance Act.
If you believe that you have grounds to contest a will then please get in touch with the expert team at Slater and Gordon. Call us on freephone 0800 916 9056 or contact us online and we will call you.