Grounds for contesting a will in the UK

There are a number of grounds for contesting a will in the UK. A recent court case gives a useful overview of some of the different challenges that can be made.

Background to the contested will dispute

The case of Nutt v Nutt illustrates the classic and extremely common family dispute that underpins a lot of contested will disputes. The case related to the Estate of Lily Rose Nutt. Her only real asset was a property in Chigwell, Essex, worth around £350,000. She had three Children, Christopher, Vivienne and Colin.

Court proceedings were issued by Christopher and Vivienne. They wanted Lily's will dated 26 June 2005 to be admitted to probate. Under that will the Estate was to be divided equally between the three Children.

Colin opposed the claim, arguing that the 2005 Will had been revoked by a later Will dated 7 April 2010. Under the terms of the 2010 Will, the property was left entirely to Colin.

Grounds for contesting a will in the UK

Christopher and Vivienne relied on a number of grounds for contesting a will in the UK, iincluding:

(i) lack of mental capacity;

(ii) want of knowledge and approval;

(iii) undue influence; and

(iv) failure to comply with legal procedures.

Each of these are distinct and separate grounds for contesting a will in the UK. The person challenging the will only has to succeed on one of these grounds to have the will declared invalid. If a will is declared invalid then the next most recent valid will can be admitted to probate. If there was no previous will then the intetacy rules apply.

However, the courts will not declare a will invalid without strong evidence being presented. the onus is on the claimant who is challenging the will to persuade the court that the will is invalid by producing convincing evidence.

Evidence to support the grounds for contesting the will

Although there was evidence from a handwriting expert in this case, that evidence was inconclusive. And surprisingly, no expert medical evidence was produced by the claimants to support the challenge on the grounds that their mother lacked capacity.

The claimants said that all three Children had equally provided support and assistance to their mother and that there was no reason why she would prefer one child over the other two. They relied on several factors to contest the validity of her will, including: 

(i) minor discrepancies in the evidence of the two witnesses to the Will;

(ii) the fact that it was a home-made will and that no-one could really say where it came from or how it was prepared; and

(iii) a diagnosis of Parkinsons had been made approximately a year before the Will was made.

However, Christopher and Vivienne simply didn’t have any conclusive evidence to support their case, and certainly not enough to satisfy the grounds for contesting a will in the UK. Accordingly they did not succeed with their legal challenge and the court dismissed their action.

The case illustrates how important it is to ensure that any challenge is fully investigated at the outset and all available evidence to support the claim is obtained and presented.

How we can help

If you are involved in a will dispute or require specialist legal advice on the grounds for contesting a will in the UK, then please contact our free legal helpline on 0808 139 1596 or send an email to us at info@contesting-wills.co.uk