The UK’s Trusted Probate Specialists
So What practically happens when a will is being disputed ?
The starting point is that a caveat only prevents the issue of probate. It doesn’t stop the actual estate administration such as sending letters to banks etc and quantifying the various assets and liabilities. But realistically once a caveat is in place, the estate cannot be distributed and money collected from banks or a property sold. So essentially until there is a resolution matters are put on hold.
The Process of Contesting a will
Whilst every case is different, if there is a dispute about a will, a case will follow a similar pattern, which maybe summarised as follows :-
- A caveat is typically entered by the person contesting the will
- A letter is sent to the solicitor that drafted the will, seeking details on the background of the will. For example, who drafted the will ? who was present? was medical evidence obtained ? this is known as Larke v Nugus letter ( so called after a well known case ) and is essential in really understanding how the will was drafted.
- Once a reply to a Larke -v- Nugus letter is received, the person unhappy with the will, may then request further evidence. For example, the deceased’s medical records if there are issues over the capacity of the testator when the will was made.
- After all the evidence has been gathered, a formal letter of claim is sent, this sets out precisely how the will is being disputed, and what remedy is being sought. For example, that an earlier will ought to apply or the intestacy rules.
- Once a letter of claim is reviewed and considered, the executors or beneficiaries will then reply. If the caveat has been entered unreasonably, the executors may choose to serve a warning to the caveat. This provides notice that unless an appearance is served within 14 days, an application will be made to the probate registry for the removal of the caveat.
- If settlement or agreement cannot be reached then typically the parties then consider Court action or mediation.
It is important to appreciate that as there are a number of grounds to contest a will, the procedures and timescales all differ. For example, it would inappropriate for a caveat to be issued when submitting a claim for maintenance until the Inheritance Act 1975.
Who to contact for help
If you are an executor, administrator or beneficiary seeking help with contesting a will or defending an estate, we can help. We specialise in will disputes and act for clients across the UK. Please feel free to call Tim Murden on 01482 429985 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org