Under English Law, a person has a right to ‘freedom of testamentary disposition’.
In other words, providing they are of sound mind and have not been unduly influenced or placed under duress they can dispose of their estate upon their death as they see fit.
However, there are sometimes reasons why a Will might be challenged or ‘contested.’
Under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975, certain protected persons may have grounds to contest a Will.
Examples of protected persons include a surviving spouse, a former spouse, a child, any person treated by the deceased as a child of the family, those who were maintained by the deceased immediately before their death and, since 1 January 1996, those who were living under the same roof as husband and wife for at least two years immediately prior to the death.
Forgery and fraud
Forgery and fraud are not uncommon. There have been instances of false signatures on Wills where the supposed testator (the person named as having made the Will) is completely unaware of what has been done.
There have also been cases where Wills which negatively affected particular family members, were destroyed and replaced by a more favourable earlier Will.
Duress or undue influence
Wills which contain unexpected provisions, or name a beneficiary who only recently came into that person’s life, may have been altered as a result of undue influence or duress.
For example, you may have had a close and loving relationship with an elderly relative and yet, behind your back, he or she was being subjected to false accusations about you. Your relative may have wrongly believed the rumours to be true and changed their Will as a result.
The important thing to remember is if it seems wrong, don’t necessarily take the Will at face value. Get in touch with our experts for specialist legal advice.