English law recognises that we are free to leave our property to whomsoever we wish. A Will should reflect the wishes of the maker and in most cases that is true. Sometimes, however, a challenge is made.
The four main reasons for challenging a Will are :-
(a) the maker was unduly influenced by someone to leave his property other than entirely voluntarily. It is alleged that pressure was brought to bear upon him to do something that he might not really have wanted to do
(b) the maker did not have mental capacity at the time. This is not just a medical assessment but involves asking a number of questions about the deceased’s state of mind at the moment that he made his Will. It is not really the same as questioning the deceased’s ‘sanity’. Even an insane person might be able to have made a valid Will in some circumstances
(c) the maker failed to take account of promises that he made to others. It is not unusual for someone to say that they made an agreement with the deceased that he or she would be “left something in the Will” in return for something that has already been performed, such as carrying out unpaid work or providing unpaid care for the deceased.. If that promise has been acted upon but not been honoured by the deceased in the Will, there may be a right to claim
(d) the maker failed to take into account the circumstances of others who should have been considered, giving rise to claims being made under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. Strictly speaking this is not a challenge to the Will itself but rather it is a challenge to the maker’s decision making processes when deciding how to make their Will. It allows certain categories of people to seek ‘reasonable financial provision’ sometimes even if they are already provided for in the Will.
Any challenge to the terms of a Will is extremely upsetting for those involved and most disputes are highly charged emotionally. They can also be very expensive to resolve if they are not handled correctly.
If you feel that you may have the grounds to challenge a Will or if you are simply unsure, please come and see us straight way. These things rarely get easier to sort out after the passage of time and sometimes it is crucial (as with Inheritance Act claims) to act very quickly or you could lose rights that you might otherwise have had. Contact one of our experts today.