When a family member dies, many people tend to be unprepared. Beyond the emotional shock we all have to face – whether the death was expected or not – there are so many practical things that, at the time, represent a difficult learning curve.
One of the most obvious examples of this is dealing with the will. Although this scenario is certainly preferable to attempting to deal with a loved one’s estate in the absence of a will, there are plenty of instances in which the will itself can cause its own issues.
One such issue is when the will is contested – this often arises when one or more family members feel that the document is not in accordance with the wishes or promises made by the testator prior to their death. With the help of a specialist contesting a will solicitors, it may be possible to pursue a different outcome to the one stipulated within the will.
This is a subject very few of us have any detailed knowledge on but, if it is happening within your family, you need to prepare yourself for a few potential outcomes.
The estate could be distributed differently to what is in the will
It can sometimes be difficult to prove that the contents of a will is not valid but it is by no means impossible. There may perhaps be arguments for example, that the testator did not have mental capacity, was unduly influenced by someone to make the will on different terms than they would otherwise have done, and/or they did not understand or approve it.
In these circumstances, the testator’s estate may well be redistributed among family members according to a previous version of the testator’s will. Alternatively, it will be made subject to the rules of intestacy, and treated as though no will exists.
It may be that a relation or someone dependant on the testator was not adequately provided for in the will or omitted entirely and in these circumstances they may be able to make a claim for financial provision.
Whatever their grounds for contesting the will, if it presents compelling evidence to the court, the estate may be distributed in a way that differs from the terms in the testator’s will.
The estate could incur significant legal costs
Litigation is expensive. Under a no win no fee agreement, one of the most popular methods of funding for these sorts of cases, fees tend to only be payable if the party making the claim is successful. If there is a dispute with the beneficiaries it can mean that the legal fees ultimately reduce the sums the beneficiaries receive.
There could be a relationship breakdown in the family at what is already an extremely sad and distressing time
Beyond the more pragmatic elements of contesting a will, there is a huge risk of creating a significant rift within the family.
Unfortunately, the process of contesting a will coincides with a time when emotions are running high. Family members who need to progress through the usual grieving process can begin to feel trapped in one of the most unpleasant stages of mourning, and this can exacerbate any disagreements over the wishes put forth in the deceased’s will.
Therefore, it is always advisable to seek advice from a solicitor at an early stage.