By Juliet Phillips-James, Director, Gomer Williams (as featured in the Llanelli Star)
Q: My father recently died and under the terms of his will he has left everything to my brother, completely cutting out my sister and I. We are not convinced that he understood what he was signing when he made the will. Both myself and my sister had a good relationship with my father, and therefore we cannot understand why he would knowingly do this. Can you advise how best to go about challenging the will?
A: Aside with coping with the grief of losing your father, you have also had the shock of discovering the terms of his will.
It may well be the case that he was not fully aware of what he was doing, or he was under pressure. A homemade will could possibly be more indicative of this rather than one made by a professional as they will exercise caution when taking instructions from vulnerable, elderly clients.
However, that does not mean a professionally drawn up will cannot be challenged. You and your sister could attempt to challenge the will on the basis that your father did not have sufficient mental capacity by law to make a will.
Alternatively, you could challenge it on the basis of undue influence — you would need to demonstrate that someone has wrongly influenced the person making the will to their benefit or the benefit of another person.
Another common reason to contest a will is alleging duress. Basically you would need to prove that your father made the will under some form of threat.
In the event that the above cannot be proven or is difficult to prove, you could consider bringing a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
However, in order to be successful in such a claim, you would need to prove some form of financial dependency on the deceased, which may be difficult.
This is a complex area of law and I would advise consulting a solicitor as soon as possible in order that they can take steps to stop a Grant of Probate being issued proving the existing will.
However, you should consider whether the value of the estate warrants making a challenge, as probate actions can cost from under £10,000 up to £250,000 and beyond in some cases.