Where There is a Will, There is Almost Always a Way
When a family member passes away, having to deal with their will can be a highly emotional and stressful period of time – and this can be even more so when there have been arguments or you are estranged. Many people do not know what to do in such cases.
Simpson Millar's Head of Wills, Probate and Trusts
answers some difficult questions about contesting a will, and the steps you can take to ensure you're getting what's rightfully yours.
Can I Contest An Estate Left To Charity?
'My mother recently died and I was shocked to discover that she left her entire estate to a local charity, despite the fact that I own next to nothing. I had sadly lost touch with her a few years back but I am a single mother of two young children
Do Familial Ties Count For Anything When Contesting A Will?
A will is a last message to our family, friends and loved ones and a chance to tell them we value them.
It is sad when families become estranged from each other. More often than not, I see how family ties and that ingrained sense of responsibility prompts people to do the right thing for their closest relatives – despite what may have gone before. But not always.
I'm sorry to hear that your mother has not felt able to leave you or her grandchildren anything in her will.
I assume you are an only child, given that your mother has directed her entire estate to a charity, and I sympathise with how you must feel.
Passing on an inheritance to the next generation is an age-old and very sound way of providing financial security to our families.The courts have some respect for this moral obligation. So, it may well be possible for you to challenge the will. 2
How Likely Is It That I Will Succeed In Contesting The Will?
Whether you succeed will depend on a number of circumstances, including the size of your mother's estate and also your needs and resources compared to that of the local charity.
In addition, the courts will consider the strength of any connection your mother may have had with the charity.
You might find comfort in a recent Court of Appeal case, in which the court awarded a third of the deceased parent's estate to the daughter, despite the fact that all of it had been left to three animal charities.
Even though the mother had explained why she left nothing for her daughter in her will, the court still felt that the moral obligation to the family outweighed the competing interests of the charities.
So, although the court won't be able to repair any emotional damage you may feel, they are likely to support you and your children in seeking some financial security for the future.
What Can I Do Next?
In the first instance, you should contact an experienced lawyer who can help establish whether you have a legitimate case to contest a will
. They will be able to estimate how much of the inheritance you might be entitled to.
They will then get in touch with the executors of the will and put your claim to them with the aim of trying to negotiate an agreement that everyone is happy with. Not all cases go all the way to a court hearing - in fact, many are settled in the early stages, which is often the best solution for everyone involved.
If your finances are limited there are various options for funding the legal fees. This could be through your home insurance or with a fixed fee agreement.At Simpson Millar LLP, our private client and specialist probate department are always on hand to help whatever your situation. We aim to make the process as accessible and cost effective as possible, which is why we offer different fee structures to suit your needs.We will manage the process of contesting the will so things run smoothly, and you can rest assured that you will get the best service at a distressing time.