Raised awareness of rights and entitlements has prompted a dramatic increase in the number of contentious probate cases going to court in recent years.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, as most claims concerning wills are resolved between the parties without a full court-room battle.
Wills can be validly challenged, provided there are certain prescribed circumstances. In essence, they fall into two categories – whether the will is valid, or whether the claimant is entitled to financial provision or recompense from the estate.
Whilst there might be a claim if it can be shown that the document itself is technically defective, the more common complaint stems from how the will came about.
One such concern might be that the deceased did not have the mental capacity necessary to make a valid will. This could be the result of frailty or mental illness, or because of any medication being taken at the time the will was completed.
A will might also be invalid if it can be shown that there were suspicious circumstances surrounding its creation, or that some other person had subjected the deceased to undue influence, or had ‘poisoned’ his or her mind.
Another concern can be that the terms of a will do not take care of someone who could reasonably expect to be provided for; or that such a person has a just interest in the estate.
Whether someone is entitled to “reasonable financial provision” depends on their relationship with the deceased, and the nature of that relationship before he or she passed away.
It must be shown that the deceased was under a duty to provide for a person but has not done so. “Just interest” claims protect all those who have had dealings with the deceased and have acted to their own detriment.
If there are suspicions or concerns surrounding a will, or if a person feels they should have been provided for in some way, then the first step is to seek legal advice, to discuss the merits of any claim, and to find a way of resolving the matter as quickly and inexpensively as possible.