Inheritance Disputes

Acting For A Claimant In An Inheritance Dispute

An individual can make a claim on a variety of different legal grounds including: –

  • It wasn’t witnessed by two witnesses.
  • A Will does not comply with the technical requirements of the Wills Act 1837.
  • The Will is invalid for some other reason – for example the person making the Will did not have sufficient mental capacity to do so or was subject to undue influence.
  • A claim for reasonable provision can be made under the Inheritance Act of 1975.
Technical requirements?

It is quite astonishing to reflect that the technical requirements about how a Will is made were first set out in the Wills Act 1837 – at a time when plainly there were no computers, no mobile phones or no videos – but the rules relating to the making of a Will remain the same – it has to be in writing and signed in the presence of two independent witnesses who should then add their names.

If a Will does not comply with these requirements, then it is invalid.

The court has no power to rectify a Will that isn’t properly signed and witnessed. We have dealt with too many cases where someone intended to make a Will and even had a draft Will prepared – but never got around to signing it. It is heart breaking in those circumstances. Sometimes although a Will seems to be signed by two witnesses it later becomes apparent that they were not actually together when the person making the Will signed it – so again the Will is invalid.

If a Will is invalid then any previous valid Will generally “comes back to life” – and if there is no previous Will then the people who would benefit under, what are known as “the Intestacy Rules” stand to benefit.

The Intestacy Rules are what the government says should happen to an estate if there isn’t a Will (it is important to note that at present the Government does not recognise the automatic rights of people who live together without being married or in a civil partnership to inherit a share of the estate).

The Will is invalid for other reasons

It goes without saying that a Will is a very important document. On the one hand it is essential that if someone wants to make provision for people in their Will then they should be free to do so. On the other hand, it is equally important that someone making a Will should have the necessary mental capacity to do so – and should make the Will free from undue influence or lies of others (this last concept is known by the strange phrase “Fraudulent Calumny”). The law has to strive to achieve these two objectives in every case – and a lot of the work of Inheritance Dispute lawyers relates to claims like this – certainly we make or defend many of these claims on behalf of disappointed beneficiaries.

Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975 (Children including adult children and children who are treated as “children of the family”)

It is worthwhile remembering that laws are made by politicians – and the Inheritance Act of 1975 was passed to allow the courts to make reasonable financial provision for certain categories for individuals including: –

  • Husbands or wives, Civil Partners, or former husbands or wives or civil partners.
  • Children including (adult children)
  • Cohabitees who have lived together for more than two years
  • Individuals who are dependent on the person who has passed away. Dependency does not necessarily just mean financial dependency – but it could, for example, include living in the house of the person who died.

These legal provisions made by politicians are sometimes controversial. It is probably the case that most people would agree that if, for example, an unhappy husband left all of his estate to the cat’s home rather than to his long-suffering wife provision should be made for her. Opinions amongst society do, however, vary when, for example, a claim for reasonable provision is made by a long estranged healthy adult child. Claims like this can be difficult for lawyers and courts to resolve – but we can help.

So, if, like an increasing number of people in this country you find yourself involved in an Inheritance Dispute – either as a claimant or as a defendant then we are here to help. 

We can get it sorted

It’s what we do. 

Call us.  It’s free to ask.



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