Probate disputes can be enormously expensive, not to mention psychologically and emotionally taxing. Disputes can arise because of problems relating to the testator (the person who created the will), the will itself, or the executor (the person designated to carry out the instructions of the will and distribute the estate of the deceased).
Problems with the will
The will itself must be valid. If the will has been tampered with in any way, then it would be a fraud will. If the process of making the will has not been followed correctly, then it would be an invalid will. For example, if the making of the will was not witnessed by two people, or if those witnesses were not appropriate, it may be invalid. The will is also invalid if it isn’t reflective of the wishes or instructions of the deceased.
Problems with the testator
As mentioned above, the will is only valid if the testator was fully aware of what was written into it, and if the instructions of the will are completely reflective of their wishes. Therefore, if the testator made decisions under pressure from someone else, it could count as undue influence. Moreover, the testator must have had sufficient mental capacity to make a will. If not, then a dispute could come out the lack of capacity to make a will. These cases often arise when the testator had been suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Problems with the executor
Some probate disputes arise due to the conduct of the executor. If the executor fails to act reasonably and appropriately, for example by refusing to allow concerned people to see a copy of the will, by delaying the payment of inheritance or being unreasonably slow and unresponsive, it can cause a dispute. However, executors will only be removed by the court in exceptional circumstances.
Finally, some people are able to make claims to the estate of the deceased under the Inheritance Act – despite being left out of the will. This includes spouses, children, and people who were financially dependent on the deceased. If there has been a clear promise of inheritance which hasn’t appeared on the will, this could also give you a claim.
In order to contest a will, it could be critically important that you act within the legal time frame. To make a claim under the Inheritance Act, if you are a child, spouse or financial dependent of the deceased, you must begin the claim within six months of the grant of probate. However, claims of probate fraud have no time limit.