Have you ever been left out of a Will and thought that you deserved something from the estate? Do you think that family members have acted unfairly, or that a step-parent has influenced your parent? do you think that something suspicious may have happened to a parent’s Will? This article discusses the grounds for challenging a Will in the UK, and what specific factors contribute to a successfully contesting a Will.
We are often asked the question “can your Wills be challenged?” Keep in mind that any Will can be challenged. If a loved ones did not receive what they were expecting from a Will, then they are perfectly entitled to challenge the Will. Typically this would be done through a Solicitor.
But very quickly, the solicitor will be able to tell their client whether they have any chance of success.
There are very specific grounds for a Will to be successfully contested, and we will describe these in this article. Let us start with what will not likely result in a successful challenge.
Every single adult should have a Will in place, but most do not. If you are reading this, you may have given some thought to writing a Will, but not sure how to get started. You have seen different approaches to writing a Will, but you are not sure which services offer a quality, affordable Will writing service, without questionable extras. Hopefully this overview will help you take the next step.
Why you need a Will.
A Will allows you to describe the distribution of your estate. It puts somebody in charge of the process, and it allows you to do things like name a guardian for your children, make charitable bequests and set up trusts.
If you die without a Will, the courts take over. Your family and loved ones will have to work their way through a court process that will eventually do the work of your Will, but probably not the way you would have wanted.
The courts will put somebody in charge of the process. Hopefully this is somebody with the administrative skills needed, and a person who has a good rapport with your family and your beneficiaries. They are going to have to work with the people you have left behind to distribute everything you own according to a legal formula. In the meantime your assets will be frozen.
Then your assets will likely be liquidated and divided according to the laws of “intestate succession”. If you are married without children, then it is possible that your intended distribution plan would match the intestate succession plan. But in almost every other case, your assets will be divided in a very strange way.
What does a Mirror Will mean?
A Mirror Will is actually two Wills, usually created by spouses or partners, that names each other as the main beneficiary, with each Will having a backup plan in case both partners are involved in a common accident. It is one of the most common approaches for couples when preparing their Last Will and Testament.
A Mirror Will is very different to a joint Will which is one document that serves the needs of two people. Joint Wills used to be popular many years ago, primarily as a time saving tool. It saved the Will writer having to type out two very similar Wills, when only the main beneficiary was different.
Joint Wills were also popular in a time when the patriarch of the family was considered to own the assets, and a wife was thought to not have an equal claim over the estate.
However, in modern times joint Wills are rarely used. Attitudes towards asset ownership, and the efficiency of Will writing software means that there is absolutely no advantage in preparing a joint Will. But there are many disadvantages.
The main disadvantage of a joint Will is that it creates confusion when one partner writes a new document revoking previous Wills, and it becomes unclear whether both parties are bound by the terms in the old joint document. In general, joint Wills should be avoided.
What are the different types of Wills?
There are a few other variations on the joint Will or Mirror Will. A Mutual Will is a pair of Wills that a made after a legal agreement is put in place to dispose of combined assets in a certain way. What makes a Mutual Will unique is that neither can be revoked (or cancelled) without agreement from both partners. There are many resources online that describe a Mutual Will as the same as a Joint Will. This is incorrect. Mutual Wills are extremely unusual, and are rarely the best option. Typically one person makes a standard Will, and then contractually ties the second person into an irrevocable Will. It’s a legal challenge waiting to happen!
The term “Reciprocal Will” can also be used in place of either a mutual Will or a Mirror Will. A Reciprocal Will simply means that the two documents have been written to benefit each other. Continue reading
At LegalWills.co.uk, one of the most frequent questions we hear is “Do I need a Will?”.
When the answer is “yes”, we then hear the familiar response “But, I don’t own anything?”
If only things were that simple….
In 2014, the average net worth of a British adult was £147,134. Now, depending on the equity built up in the home, if you remove that value from the net worth it still comes in at around £20,000. Therefore, even if you don’t own your own house, there could still be well over £20,000 that makes up a part of your estate after death.
According to the pension giant Aviva, most British middle aged people have typically built up private retirement savings and investments worth £53,793. Now, you might think that these figures don’t apply to you but equity can be found in unexpected sources from ISA’s to insurance plans and even the personal items you own within your house. Continue reading
Updated November 2019.
Will writing options
Before the advent of online Will writing services there were two general approaches to writing a Will. Going to a solicitor, or writing your own Will on a piece of paper. These two approaches were diametrically opposite. A solicitor would be able to provide you with legal advice, and potentially write custom clauses in your Will, but the service would cost you several hundreds of pounds.
The option of going to a solicitor was not available to everybody either because of a lack of time, or an unwillingness to pay high fees to what was perceived to be a simple instruction. So many people attempted to write their own Will starting with a blank sheet of paper, and in general terms explain how they would want their estate to be distributed. The common belief was that writing at least something on a piece of paper, was better than dying without a Will.
In the mid to late 1990’s a number of blank form kits started entering the market. Available from shops like WHSmith the kits provided some structure to writing a Will, and at least guided the user through making some key appointments, and included the formalities of revoking previous Wills, and signing the new document.