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/ 25 Aug 2023

Can I contest a Will without a solicitor?

Yes, you can contest a Will without a solicitor, although it is generally advisable to seek legal advice when contesting a Will due to the complexity associated with contentious probate matters.

Given the different types of challenge and the procedures associated with contesting a Will, Senior Associate Rajinder Rai outlines the benefits of using a solicitor to contest a Will including examples of recent cases and the costs associated.

Rajinder Rai

Senior Associate & Accredited Mediator

Private Client

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Due to the potential costs involved when using a solicitor, is it understandable that some may wish to proceed on their own. However, you cannot underestimate the value to be gained from instructing specialist contentious probate solicitors, not to mention the costs this may save you in the long run.

What are the benefits of using a solicitor to contest a Will?

  • Legal expertise: specialised contentious probate solicitors have a deep understanding of wills and the law. They are familiar with the legal requirements for creating a valid will, the different grounds for contesting a will, and the relevant legal procedures. Their expertise can help you navigate the legal complexities involved in contesting a Will.
  • Objective advice: Dealing with the death of a loved one can be an emotional time for everyone involved, particularly in the case of a contested Will. Instructing a solicitor allows you to receive objective advice that can help you assess the strength of your case. They can provide a realistic assessment of your chances of success, to help you make informed decisions.
  • Navigating procedures: Contesting a Will typically involves knowing about the law, knowing the grounds to challenge a Will, knowing the court procedure, adhering to specific timelines to make a claim, and attending court hearings. A solicitor can guide you through the necessary process, and advise on the merits of a claim.
  • Negotiation skills:. Many Will disputes can be resolved through negotiations rather then going to trial. Solicitors are skilled negotiators who can represent your interests during settlement discussions whether that be by way of offers being made or representing you at mediation. They can help you achieve a resolution without the need for a lengthy and expensive court battle.
  • Knowledge of precedents: Solicitors have access to legal databases and relevant caselaw that can be crucial in building a persuasive case. They can research similar cases and use previous legal decisions to strengthen your argument.
  • Maximised chances of success: Ultimately, a solicitor’s expertise can significantly improve your chances of successfully contesting a Will, ensuring you can make informed decisions and reaching a settlement. There is a huge risk involved by not seeking specialised legal advice and assistance at an early stage, particularly if you are unsuccessful at trial and are ordered to pay the other side’s legal costs as a result. Below we highlight a few recent case examples that highlight the importance of instructing legal advice early on.

Beware internet Will templates – recent case law

In a recent reported case of Ingram & Whitfield v Abraham and Abraham [2023] EWHC 1982 (Ch), the court emphasised the problems that can arise if legal advice is not sought when making a Will, or if a template is used off the internet as was the case here.

In this case a single mother of two children made a Will in 2008 which was clear as to her wishes and intentions to leave her Estate to her two children in equal shares. She subsequently wanted to make changes to her Will, resulting in a later Will in 2019, and asked a relative to assist, who used a template “off the internet”.

The court found that she did not know what she was signing or understand the terms of her 2019 Will as the relative had not correctly understood her intentions and implemented them in the 2019 Will, whereas had she used an experienced lawyer they would have understood the intentions and drafted the Will appropriately.

On that basis, the court declared that the 2019 Will was invalid for lack of knowledge and approval, and the earlier Will of 2008 was admitted to probate.

The case sends a clear message that you should obtain proper legal advice when making a Will thus ensuring that no doubt is cast about your wishes and intention on your death.

Successfully defending a contested Will – recent case law

Our client succeeded in dismissing his sister’s Claims against their late father’s Estate. This particular claim lasted some five years.

The father passed away 8 years ago leaving a Will where our client was the main beneficiary. His sister was only gifted a small sum of money but would have inherited half the Estate under an earlier Will. The sister brought proceedings against our client challenging the Will on all the legal grounds available regardless of whether she had specific evidence she required for each ground. This included that her father did not have the mental capacity to make his Will and undue influence on our client’s part. Fortunately, the court upheld the Will and dismissed her Claims for lack of merit.

Learnings from this case: The sister did not have legal representation in place, but had she done so, she is likely to have been advised not to have pursued her claim in danger of having a costs Order made against her when she lost. In this case our client was generous in not pursuing her for a costs order even though he was fully entitled to do so. In many other cases we see, the successful applicant is not so generous, by instructing legal representation early in your case you can save yourself time and money in the long run.

What are the costs of contesting a Will?

Each case depends on its own facts and merit, and therefore the costs of contesting a Will differ. However we do try to stop cases going to trial if possible and which in turn, saves you costs.

How our contentious probate solicitors can help you.

Our contentious probate solicitors specialise in disputes related to Wills, estates, and probate matters. They can assist you by providing expert legal advice and representation if you are involved in a dispute over a will’s validity, distribution of assets, claims of undue influence or lack of capacity, or other contentious issues.

By instructing our solicitors early, they can guide you through the legal process, assess the strength of your case, help gather evidence, represent your interests in negotiations and court proceedings, and work to achieve a resolution to suit your wishes or which keeps your costs down. Their expertise ensures that you have the best possible chance of achieving a fair outcome in often emotionally charged and complex situations.

Contact our contentious probate team today on +44 (0) 207 228 0017 or by using the contact form below.

Contact our contentious probate solicitors

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