Wills are intended to be the final word on how a person’s assets are distributed after their demise, providing a sense of closure and assurance to loved ones. However, in the United Kingdom, as in many other places, wills can be subject to contestation and legal disputes. Why does this happen? In this blog, we’ll delve into the reasons why wills are contested in the UK.
1. Lack of Capacity
One common reason for wills being contested is the claim that the testator (the person making the will) lacked the mental capacity to understand the implications of their will. This could be due to conditions like dementia or cognitive impairments. Contestants argue that the will may not represent the true wishes of the deceased.
2. Undue Influence
Undue influence occurs when someone exerts pressure or manipulation over the testator, leading them to make decisions against their will. In such cases, the will may not reflect the genuine desires of the deceased but rather those of the influencer, often a family member or caregiver.
3. Fraud and Forgery
Wills can be contested if there is evidence of fraud or forgery. This could involve the creation of a fake will or alterations to an existing one without the testator’s knowledge or consent. Proving fraud or forgery can be complex but is essential for contestation.
4. Lack of Proper Execution
UK law requires wills to meet specific formalities for them to be valid. These include having two witnesses present at the time of signing. If these formalities are not met, the will can be contested on the grounds of improper execution.
5. Claims for Financial Provision
Under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, certain family members and dependents have the right to contest a will if they believe they have not been adequately provided for. This often happens when a spouse, child, or dependent feels they were unfairly excluded or left with insufficient inheritance.
6. Ambiguity or Unclear Wording
A will can also be contested if its language is ambiguous or unclear, leading to different interpretations. Contestants may argue that the testator’s true intentions are not evident from the document, necessitating legal clarification.
7. Disputes among Beneficiaries
Sometimes, disputes arise between beneficiaries named in the will. These conflicts can lead to challenges as beneficiaries contest the terms of the will, often seeking a more favorable distribution of assets.
While wills are intended to provide clarity and closure, they can sometimes become a source of conflict and dispute. In the UK, various factors can lead to the contestation of wills, from concerns about the testator’s capacity and undue influence to issues of fraud, improper execution, and ambiguity. Additionally, claims for financial provision and beneficiary disputes can further complicate matters.
To reduce the likelihood of will contests ensure your wills are drafted by competent professionals. We at Ansham White Solicitors are here to provide specialist legal advice for all your legal work requirements.
Call us on 0208 6346850.