Common Causes of Will Disputes and Legal Problems

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If a will has been written in a way that is legally invalid, it’s likely that the wishes of the deceased will not be considered when distributing their estate (including their property, money, and possessions).

Even if a will is valid and legally accurate, there are still some circumstances under which disputes can occur, particularly in cases where the family situation is complex. 

To minimise the risk of legal issues and other disputes that add to the distress your family will already be under, it’s important that you talk through the plan for your will with family and make a will with the help of a professional will writing service, such as that provided by Unite Wills. 

Here’s a quick guide to the most common reasons for contesting a will and the possible legal issues that can arise after death.

What are the grounds for contesting a will?

Some of the most common reasons for contesting a will include: 

  • Testamentary capacity – the person writing the will must be of sound mind.
  • Lack of valid execution – the will must be signed and legally valid.
  • Lack of knowledge and approval – an individual must approve of or have knowledge of their will’s content.
  • Undue influence – a person must not be unduly influenced or under duress when writing their will.
  • Fraudulent and forged wills – you can contest a will if you believe it has been forged or there is sign of fraud.
  • Rectification and construction claims – a will can be rectified if it does not carry out the individual’s intentions due to professional negligence.

Family disputes over a will can occur for many reasons - for example, if one sibling was left more money than another. In which case, it’s likely that solicitors will take over proceedings and the court may be required to determine the right course of action. 

Disputes are part of the reason why it’s so important to make your will as accurate, clear, and as up-to-date as possible. By writing your will with a professional service, you ensure that your wishes are known and understood, even in the event of a dispute.

What happens if a will cannot be found? 

Before assuming that the will is lost, you should: 

  • Contact the solicitor, bank or accountant of the deceased
  • Ask the care home or hospital of the deceased 
  • Try to find a certificate of deposit (CD) from the Probate Service
  • Contact the Principal Registry of the Family Division 

If you have done all of the above and there is still no sign of the deceased’s will, the rules of intestacy will be initiated.

Intestacy rules are a set of inheritance laws that must be followed when someone dies without a will (or when a will cannot be found). The rules do not take the wishes of the deceased into account, so it is not uncommon for them to cause disputes. 

The rules of intestacy prioritise married and civil partners, but some of the estate could also be handed down to surviving children when they reach 18 years of age if it is worth more than a certain amount. 

If there are no surviving children or partners, the estate is inherited by siblings, nieces and nephews, grandparents, or aunts and uncles. If none of those relatives are alive, the entire estate will be handed over to the Crown, rather than friends or a chosen charity.   

To ensure that your hard-earned estate does not go to the Crown or a distant relative that you barely know, it’s important that you write a will and store it in a professional facility. Unite Wills can help you with just that, so get in touch with us by completing our short contact form and we’ll give you a call at a time that’s convenient for you. 

Declaring a will invalid if it is not signed 

A will can be disputed or contested if there are grounds to believe that there has been a lack of proper formalities - for example, if it has not been signed legitimately. Wills are considered invalid if they fail to meet any of the following requirements: 

  • The will must be in writing and signed by the testator (the person who made the will) or by someone else in their presence, who has been given permission to do so. 
  • The testator must have intended to sign to give effect to the will.
  • At least two witnesses must be present to see the signature being made.
  • All witnesses must attest and sign the will or acknowledge the signature in the presence of the person who created it.
  • The legal presumption is that a will is legally valid unless there is evidence to show that it is not.

Can a witness to a will be a beneficiary?

If a beneficiary (or even the spouse or civil partner of a beneficiary) witnesses a will, they subsequently forfeit their right to their share of the estate left behind. 

The will remains valid, but the people who sign it are not entitled to benefit from its contents in any way and will not be able to claim any gifts left to them. 

The best way to write an accurate, secure will

The best way to minimise the risk of disputes and legal problems is by planning ahead and writing a will with a professional will-writing service. 

Here at Unite Wills, our friendly team of advisors are available to help you make an accurate, legally valid will that clearly expresses your wishes, while also protecting you against any legal problems that could potentially arise if you wrote it yourself. 

We also offer a professional storage facility, where you can keep your will safe and update it as and when required with minimum hassle. 

Our trained advisors are well-equipped to advise you on all you need to know about wills, from setting up trusts and minimising the impact of inheritance tax, to appointing guardianship and keeping your will safe

To start making your will online, register with us today or get in touch with us by completing our short contact form and a member of our team will be in touch at a time most convenient for you.