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The below list of FAQs should help to answer many of the questions you might have when it comes to contesting a valid Will.

Can I bring a claim against an estate even if the Will has been validly made?

Yes.  The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants Act) 1975 (more commonly known simply as the “1975 Act”)  allows certain categories of people to apply to the court for an order for what is known as “reasonable financial provision” in the event that they are either not provided for, or not provided for sufficiently, within a testator’s Will.

Who can bring a claim for financial provision?

People who can make a claim for financial provision are set out in the 1975 Act.  The categories are as follows:

  • Surviving spouses or civil partners of the deceased;
  • Former spouses or civil partners of the deceased;
  • Cohabiting partners who lived with the deceased for a least 2 years prior to their death;
  • A child of the deceased;
  • Someone treated as a child of the deceased’s family (for example a step-child); and
  • People who are “maintained” by the deceased – sometimes referred to as people who financially depended upon the deceased.
My long-term partner has not left me anything in their Will. What can I do?

It is possible that you may have a claim under the 1975 Act for reasonable financial provision, depending upon the exact circumstances of your relationship with your partner.  The court has a wide discretion regarding what it thinks is reasonable financial provision if it decides that the deceased’s Will did not provide for you sufficiently.

In these circumstances, it is quite important to take specialist advice as soon as possible, particularly in light of the time limits which apply.

My parents have not provided anything for me in either of their Wills. What can I do?

It is possible for children (including adult, working age children) to make claims against the estates of their parents if they have not been provided for in certain circumstances.

These types of claims are very fact-specific so it is not possible to give a straightforward yes or no answer as to whether any such claim is available to you.  The court will consider all factors which we can explore with you in more detail.

My ex-husband has died and I was receiving maintenance payments from him. He hasn’t left me anything in their Will. What can I do?

You may be able to make a claim against your ex-spouse’s estate on the basis that their Will does not make ‘reasonable financial provision’ for you. You will not be able to bring a claim if you have remarried, or if a condition of your divorce explicitly states that you will not make a claim against their estate.

These types of claims are very fact-specific so it is not possible to give a straightforward yes or no answer as to whether any such claim is available to you.  The court will consider all factors which we can explore with you in more detail.

My sister has passed away. She separated from her husband years ago although they never got divorced, so they are technically still married. My sister never made a Will. Will her husband inherit her estate?

My sister has passed away. She separated from her husband years ago although they never got divorced, so they are technically still married. My sister never made a Will. Will her husband inherit her estate?

How long do I have to bring a claim?

Anybody who wishes to make a claim for provision under the 1975 Act must be issue their claim at court within 6 months of the Grant of Probate being issued in the deceased’s estate.

This does mean that it is quite important to act quickly if you believe that you may wish to bring a claim under the 1975 Act against an estate.  Whilst it is possible to make an application for financial provision more than 6 months after the issue of the Grant of Probate, the court would need to be satisfied with the reasons which are provided for the delay.

Who pays?

If a dispute goes to court then the losing party will have to pay both their own and the winning parties’ legal costs.   In other words, if you did not succeed with your claim, you would have to pay the legal costs incurred by the beneficiaries of the estate.  However, if your claim succeeds, the beneficiaries of the estate are likely to have to pay your legal costs, as well as any financial provision which is ordered by the court to come from the estate.

Ward Hadaway can offer a number of options to help to minimise your financial outlay, including acting on a fixed fee basis or a no win no fee arrangement.

We have been offering no win no fee arrangements now for over 20 years.  We know that good legal advice is expensive and  in most cases, if the case is strong, we can work with you to find a way of bringing the claim. Click here to see an example of one of our recent cases. Costs will be discussed with you in detail before you have to pay anything.

How long does a claim take?

There is no hard and fast rule as to how long a claim under the 1975 Act can take.  If a dispute is settled early into the process then resolution can be reached in a matter of weeks or months.  If, on the other hand, matters have to proceed all the way to trial then it is not unheard of for disputes under the 1975 Act to last anywhere between 12-18 months

Will I have to go to court?

The vast majority of disputes settle without ever reaching a final hearing with something in the region of 2-5% of all cases actually ending up in court at a final trial.  So whilst it is very unlikely you would need to attend a court hearing, it is always a possibility.

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    If you wish to read our other FAQs on How to contest an invalid Will?, click here.  Or to return to the main page on Will disputes, click here.

    We offer a free, no-obligation initial consultation in order to assess your particular situation. If we do think that you may have a claim, we will explore all potential funding options with you, including the possibility of acting on a no-win-no-fee basis.

    To access your free consultation, fill in the form above, contact Martin 0330 137 3022 or via email inheritance.disputes@wardhadaway.com, or get in touch with any of the contacts further down this page.

    Ward Hadaway is a UK Top 100 law firm, and many of our solicitors are recommended by both of the leading independent guides to the legal industry – Chambers & Partners and Legal 500.  Our experts in this area have completed the specialist course run by the Association of Contested Trusts and Probate Specialists (ACTAPS) and the University of Law.   Members of our team are also part of the Special Interest Group for Contested Trusts and Estates at the Society for Trusts and Estates Practitioners (STEP).

    Our expert team are recognised in the both national legal directories, Chambers and Legal 500 as leading individuals in their area of expertise.

    Contact a specialist

    Martin Woodford

    Partner | Commercial Litigation

    +44 (0) 330 137 3319

    +44 (0)791 232 8152

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    Ashleigh Lavender

    Managing Associate | Commercial Litigation

    +44 (0) 330 137 3306

    +44 (0)752 580 2957

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    Kerry McFarlane

    Solicitor | Commercial Litigation

    +44 (0) 330 137 3338

    +44 (0)784 525 6477

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