How long do you have to contest a will in the UK? It may be a sensitive topic, but it’s one that clients frequently ask wills & probate experts.
The period after a loved one’s death is always difficult, and it can make things even more challenging if you believe their assets have been distributed unfairly.
If you have legitimate concerns about a will, it’s important to challenge it as soon as possible.
How long do you have to contest a will in the UK?
Generally speaking, it’s better to contest a will as early as possible. While there is technically no set time limit to challenge the validity of a will, taking too long to claim can make the process more complicated.
In some cases, you may have as little as six months from the date of the grant of probate to contest a will.
The time limits for contesting probate do vary but they will usually depend on the type of claim you make.
Claiming under the 1975 Inheritance Act
The 1975 Inheritance Act allows certain dependents to claim financial provision from a deceased person’s estate – so long as the estate can provide that provision.
If you want to bring a claim under the act, you’ll usually have up to six months from when probate was granted to make your claim.
Claiming against an estate
In the UK, beneficiaries making a claim against an estate usually have up to 12 years from the date of death to do so.
Your reasons for contesting a will in these circumstances may include:
- you believe the deceased had insufficient mental capacity when they wrote the will;
- you believe the deceased did not understand or approve the will’s contents;
- or you suspect that someone else used undue influence to interfere with the will’s creation.
Claiming in cases of fraud and forgery
While you’ll need to have strong evidence to prove that a will is fraudulent, there is technically no time limit for contesting a will on these grounds in the UK.
That means if you have good reason to suspect fraud or forgery, you can make a claim at any point.
The sooner, the better
As mentioned, too long a delay can make the process more complicated, regardless of the nature of your claim.
While challenging a will when probate has been granted is certainly possible, it’s also more expensive and may require specialist legal advice.
Furthermore, the longer you wait to start court proceedings, the more likely it is that the estate assets have already been distributed to the beneficiaries.
Successfully contesting a will beyond this point is much harder – particularly if the beneficiaries have already spent the money. As a result, the sooner you contest the will, the better.
Making your claim
You should always seek legal counsel when contesting a will. A solicitor can advise you on how to make your claim and guide you through court proceedings.
It’s also important to put a caveat on the estate to prevent the distribution of assets before you can make your claim. This will give your solicitor more time to gather the necessary evidence.
In cases without a valid will, a solicitor can also help you apply for Letters of Administration to identify the correct beneficiaries and determine who is responsible for administering the estate.
Handling complex legal and financial matters while dealing with loss can be tough, but our specialist wills & probate services can help ease some of that pressure.
Get in touch to talk to us about your loved one’s estate and find out how long you have to contest a will in the UK.