After a person dies, their last will and testament is bought into effect. This involves notifying the beneficiaries of the will and taking appropriate action to divide up the estate in accordance with the wishes of the deceased. Normally this is a fairly straightforward process, as the trustees or executors can just carry out the provisions made in the will and that will be that. Sometimes, however, one or more beneficiaries (or other people close to the deceased) may be concerned that either the will is invalid or that they have an inheritance claim that has been omitted from the document. This often leads to the decision to launch a will challenge – but exactly who is eligible to do so?
If the deceased is survived by a spouse – whether a husband, wife or civil partner – then the surviving partner is eligible to contest the will. This most commonly happens when the spouse was financially dependant on the deceased but there is nothing in the will to take account of that. The spouse can then make an inheritance claim in order to receive a share of the estate.
If the deceased had a former spouse who remained unmarried following their split, then they may also be entitled to contest a will if they feel they have been unfairly left out. If successful, their payment will generally be in the form of maintenance payments in case they choose to marry again, at which point their entitlement to the estate will cease.
Whether the children of the deceased are natural or adopted, they too have the right to contest the will. This generally happens if they were financially dependant on their deceased parent, but it can also happen if they feel they were unfairly left out or neglected in favour of their siblings.
The law also makes provision for any step-children of the deceased, or any others that they may have looked after as if they were their own children.
The law was amended in 1995 to take account of the fact that more people live together without being married. Now, if a couple has lived together for at least 2 years, then the surviving partner is eligible to contest the will of their deceased partner if they feel adequate provision has not been made for them.
Any other dependants
Anyone else who may have been financially dependent on the deceased may also be able to make an inheritance claim if they have been overlooked. This could be an elderly relative or disabled person who was reliant on the deceased.
To dispute a will, you must be certain that you are eligible to do so or else you stand very little chance of winning your case. As a general rule, you must fall into one of the above categories in order to qualify.
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