When it comes to legal disputes involving the distribution of a deceased loved one’s estate, it can be an emotionally draining and upsetting process. What can make matters worse, is the possibility of the will not being valid, or someone making claims that state just that. Individuals who have a connection with the deceased can cite a range of different sources when trying to prove that a will is invalid. From making claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, to accusations that the deceased was coerced, claims must be proven, to be successful. If you’re struggling with handling a deceased person’s estate, our litigation solicitors here at Van Eaton are here for you.
Our experienced lawyers at Van Eaton solicitors in Streatham can help you settle your inheritance disputes through mediation and can help guide you through the legal process. If you have your suspicions concerning the validity of a will, please read our article below to discover what you need to prove it.
Although difficult to prove, an invalid will by means of undue influence can occur and is incredibly distressing for the family of the deceased. Undue influence means that the deceased was coerced or forced into changing their will, implying that the contents were not what they wanted to include. If you believe that the contents of a person’s will were not fully decided by the deceased themselves, you must seek legal advice as soon as possible, preferably before a grant of probate has been issued, to start proceedings.
Proving that the deceased was coerced can be hard to prove, but there are certain elements that a court may investigate. For instance, if the changes were last minute, detrimental to their estate or different to wishes they’ve mentioned before, it can raise concerns. Furthermore, if there is someone included in the estate that was previously never mentioned, or they stood to inherit a much smaller amount before the amendment, courts are more likely to accept a claim of undue influence. Our will disputes solicitors here at Van Eaton can assess all trust and estate disputes that may arise and can help you get the result you need as efficiently as possible.
If you believe that the deceased did not possess the correct level of mental capacity, you must make your claim before the distribution of assets has begun, and preferably before probate has been granted. When making a will, an individual must be of sound mind and know exactly what they’re doing. They must be aware of the contents of their estate, and not suffer from any mental condition that may “pervert his sense of right.”
If you wish to prove that the deceased lacked mental capacity, there are different ways that you can approach it. Courts tend to accept eye-witness accounts from people who knew the deceased around the time the will was made. Like with undue influence, if the will does not reflect the wishes of the deceased, or someone close to them believed they showed signs of a lack of mental capacity, a court may accept the challenges. Experts in inheritance disputes, our civil litigation solicitors here at Van Eaton can help you build your case and gather the necessary evidence before presenting it to a court.
Forgery and Lack of Execution
Trying to prove that a will was forged or changed without the deceased’s permission is notoriously hard to prove, but possible. Like all examples of an invalid will, suspicions can arise when the will does not reflect the deceased’s wishes and goes against everything they have previously stated in life. The best way to prove forgery is by checking the signature against old ones made by the deceased. A judge may also determine the probability of who is more likely to be telling the truth in a forgery case and the judge may well be influenced by the findings of a forensic handwriting expert, which you can appoint.
Lack of execution refers to the belief that a will has not been made legally. For a will to be valid, it must be made in writing, signed, by the deceased during their lifetime and witnessed by two other people, who must countersign and provide their contact details. If any of these requirements are missing it could make it easier to claim, that a will is invalid. Here at Van Eaton, our litigation solicitors can help you assess and gather information for your claim and can guide you through every step of the legal process.
Proving that a will is invalid can be difficult. Luckily, there is expert legal advice out there to help you along the way. If you would like a no-obligation quote, or you require more information, please fill out our online form here.