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Advice for Those Left Out of a Will

<strong>Advice for Those Left Out of a Will</strong>

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It can be devastating to learn that a loved one failed to account for you in a will. Whether you feel they simply forgot, lacked the testamentary capacity to voice their true wishes, or intentionally limited your inheritance, there’s no explanation that can make it feel any easier. 

It can make the loss of a loved one that much harder to cope with. The fact that they cannot explain themselves or offer reassurances or guidance means that their absence is thrown into sharp relief, and the existing mix of emotions we feel during grief are made all the more acute. 

None of us want a relationship to be marred in this way, particularly when we are trying to grieve. Here are a few practical steps you should take if you have been left out of a will.

Know the Legal Grounds for Contesting a Will

In order to contest a will, you need to have a legal reason for doing so – something that could prove the invalidity of the will as it is now, and potentially overwrite it.

The reasons you can contest a will are:

  • Fraud or forgery
  • Want of due execution
  • Fraudulent calumny
  • Want of knowledge and approval
  • Undue influence
  • Lack of testamentary capacity

Of course, proving any one of these to be true can be very tricky. You’ll need to seek the advice of reputable will dispute solicitors to ensure that you have sufficient evidence of, say, fraud or influence – or that the testator was no longer mentally capable of creating a will at the time that it was written, for example.

Know Who Can Challenge a Will

You don’t necessarily have to be a husband, wife or a child of the testator in order to contest a will. Technically, anyone could contest it, provided they can demonstrate that they have a vested interest. The easiest way to prove this is if you were mentioned in a previous will, or if you can prove that you were financially dependent on the testator.

Know What to Expect

In the first instance, you’ll want to reach out to a solicitor and start discussing the specifics of your case. It may then be that you have grounds to register a caveat to prevent a Grant of Probate from being issued.  This will put a temporary hold (usually 6 months, to start with) on the distribution of the estate to allow you to carry out investigations surrounding the circumstances in which the will was prepared. 

It may be that you and the other individuals mentioned in the will can reach an agreement through mediation. If not, the case will need to be taken to court. These cases can reach a swift conclusion, or drag on for a long time, depending on the circumstances and the positions parties take.

Act Quickly

If a Grant of Probate has been issued, this will not stop you from bringing a claim but there is a risk that the assets will be distributed and may not be recovered. You should therefore act as soon as possible before the estate is distributed.

It’s a difficult decision to make – whether or not to contest a will. If you feel any compulsion to do so, reach out to a solicitor as soon as you possibly can.

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