Facing Up to a Will Challenge

Being an executor isn't all tax forms, tracking down creditors, and dividing out the estate. Sometimes you have to face up to a will challenge, where the terms of the will are contested.

As an executor it's your job to ensure that the terms of the will are followed. However, there may be times when you, and the beneficiaries, feel that the person challenging the will has a legitimate claim.

Under such circumstances the executors and beneficiaries can agree to alter the terms of the will with the aim of meeting the claim. I cover changing a will in the next section.

The usual suspects who challenge a will include:

Facing Up to a Will ChallengeA dependant who feels that they haven't been left enough property in the will. Under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, people deemed dependant on the deceased at the time of death may have the right to a share of the estate. Refer to Chapter 8 for how this works.

Facing Up to a Will ChallengeA beneficiary who is unhappy at a condition made on the gift to them. If the beneficiary feels that a condition tacked onto their gift to them is unreasonable, then they can ask the court to set it aside. Conditional wills are explored in Chapter 8.

Facing Up to a Will ChallengeA beneficiary or executor who seeks to have a mistake rectified in the will. If the wording of the will is ambiguous or a clear mistake is in the will, an executor or beneficiary can ask the courts to rectify it. See below for correcting a will.

If the situation looks like it could all turn nasty, talk to a solicitor who can advise you on what to do next.

Facing Up to a Will Challenge

Fighting a will challenge can be very expensive. If the claim is not substantial it may not be worthwhile going to court. Talk to a solicitor and the beneficiaries to look at simply coughing up what is requested.

Facing Up to a Will Challenge

A will challenge can hold up the distribution of the estate for several months and, in some exceptional circumstances, even longer.

Not only the terms of the will can be challenged – your actions as an executor or administrator can also come under scrutiny. Creditors and beneficiaries have been known to take executors and administrators to court over what they see as an unfair act or sloppy, expensive administration. If you find that your actions are called into question, consult a solicitor.

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