When it comes to litigation, solicitors tend to fall into one of two categories. A solicitor either does court room work or doesn’t. This is especially true of solicitors who practice in the areas of wills and probate law. Most of their work is non-contentious, and they have little to no experience with litigation. However, some solicitors are a select group of wills and probate specialists with extensive court room experience of contesting wills. A contested probate solicitor is capable of handling disputes and litigation related to wills and probate, even when it involves litigation in a court of law.
Numerous grounds for contesting wills exist. Given the complex nature of wills and probate law, these cases can become quite difficult. If you are facing potential legal actions related to a will or probate, you should seek the immediate advice of a qualified contested probate solicitor.
Contesting wills almost always focuses on just one question: is the will valid? Every day solicitors see firsthand the enormous potential for making a mistake that will invalidate the entire document. When creating a will, you must follow each and every requirement prescribed the law.
First, the testator must be at least 18 years of age. They must also be of sound mind, free from undue influence and fully understand the meaning of the document. Undue influence occurs when a beneficiary of the will was too involved in the will making process.
Additionally, the law sets out specific rules for properly executing a will. The will must be signed by two independent witnesses who observed the testator signing the will. If either witness is also a beneficiary of the will, they will lose their inheritance.
If the original will is lost, the proposed executor may still be able to obtain a grant of probate. In the case of lost will, the proposed executor will go before the court and try to prove that a copy of the will is valid. The proposed executor, however, may come up against some opposition from an interested third party who has taken legal advice on contesting wills.
For instance, suppose the beneficiary of an earlier will is not named as a beneficiary in the copy the proposed executor is trying to prove. Unhappy with being left out of the will, this individual may take advice about contesting wills and could try to argue that the original was intentionally destroyed, not lost. Intentionally destroying a will revokes the document, rendering it meaningless. Thus, so goes the argument, the copy is invalid and the earlier will should be enforced. As you can imagine, cases involving lost or destroyed wills are highly complicated and often emotionally charged. The person named as executor in the lost will needs the help of an experienced contested probate solicitor.
Oftentimes there are people who depended on the deceased for financial support, perhaps a spouse or a minor. These dependents are legally entitled to continued support. If the terms of the deceased’s will do not provide for this support, then the dependent is entitled to bring a legal action to enforce their prior claim to the estate.