If you find yourself a little bit confused by all the legal jargon that surrounds contesting a will, then look no further than this brief guide to the key terms involved.
Contesting a will
This does exactly what it says. Contesting a will refers to challenging the terms and stipulations of a person’s will following their death. Common causes include the will being invalid, the fact that the person who made the will was not of sound mind when they wrote it, or if a financial dependant (such as a child or spouse) of the deceased has been left out of the beneficiaries.
Intestacy refers to those people who die without leaving a will and the intestacy rules are what govern the distribution of that person’s assets when they die ‘intestate’. If they are married with no children, then the surviving spouse inherits everything. If they are married with children, then the money is split between the spouse and children. In circumstances where the affairs of the deceased are more complicated, the estate can be split between other family members such as parents, siblings and their children, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.
An inheritance claim is what you make when you think you are entitled to a proportion to the estate of the deceased. Contesting a will involves making an inheritance claim via a solicitor acting on your behalf.
This is someone who is, as the name suggests, financially dependent on the deceased and who, therefore, has a claim on a proportion of their estate for maintenance purposes.
A testator is the person who makes a will, so when documents and articles make reference to the ‘estate of the testator’ or similar, they are talking about the deceased person whose will is in question.
This is someone who benefits from the will of the testator. Commonly, this will be family members such as a spouse and children, but it can also include friends and causes such as charities or political parties. A testator can choose to leave their estate to whomever they wish, with very few caveats.
Inheritance Act 1975
This is the Act of Parliament upon which most inheritance decisions are based. If you make an inheritance claim, it is like to be under the ‘Provision for Family and Dependants’ section of this Act.
You apply for UK probate in order to release the estate of the deceased so that it can be distributed among the beneficiaries. This is generally done by the executors of the will in accordance with the wishes of the testator.
If you are thinking of disputing a will, you can apply for a caveat. This means that no action can be taken in relation to the probate without first notifying you. It also sets into motion the legal process of the inheritance claim. You are advised to apply for a caveat as soon as you can.
This is one means of settling conflict over a person’s will and often involves mediators to help negotiate between the beneficiaries and the contesting party
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