I’ve been left out of a will-what can I do?

Under the current law in England and Wales, anyone is entitled to make whatever will they wish, as long as they have the mental capacity to do so.

People often change their wills, deviating from their previous ones without necessarily alerting family members.

This happened to a family recently where the mother died and one sibling was left with almost the entire estate. This man was known locally as ‘Pirate Pete’ to many in Bristol. It came as a shock to his siblings to learn that their mother’s estate worth £1.2m was left to him, and was being spent as he saw fit; against his mother’s wishes, he bought a bar in Lanzarote.

If you have been cut out of a will unexpectedly and seem to have a ‘Pirate Pete’ in your family, who is unfairly inheriting a loved one’s estate, we are here to help and there are many options open to you.

As with Pirate Pete’s family, if you suspect that the deceased’s last will does not accurately reflect the deceased’s wishes, there may be grounds to dispute the will.

Grounds to challenge a will

  • Lack of testamentary capacity – was the person of sound mind at the time of making the will?
  • Lack of valid execution – was the will created properly in accordance with the law?
  • Lack of want, knowledge and approval – did the person know, understand and agree the contents of the will?
  • Undue influence – was the person unduly pressured by someone else.
  • Fraud/forgery – are there any suspicious circumstances surrounding the preparation of the will – for example, is there reason to believe that the person’s signature is not legitimate?

Inheritance provision for family

Alternatively, if the will cannot be challenged in any of those ways, but you are a child, spouse or cohabitant of the deceased and their will does not sufficiently provide for you, you may have grounds to bring what is known as an Inheritance Act claim. Certain classes of people eligible for this type of claim need to show that they were maintained by the deceased. For this type of claim, the following needs to be shown:

  • that the deceased died in England and Wales and that it was their permanent home;
  • the claimant falls with one of the classes entitled to bring a claim under the law; and
  • the deceased’s will has not made reasonable financial provision for the claimant, with reasons why this is the case.

Is there a time limit to bring these claims?

There is no time limit to bring a claim, however for a claim under the Inheritance Act, a claim has to be brought within six months of the date that probate was obtained.

If you have an issue, and would like some advice, please contact Emily Clarke on 01495 225236