Contesting a will and time limits
If you are unhappy about a will, or with how your inheritance is being dealt with, it is time critical for you to seek legal advice as quickly as possible. Time limits for inheritance claims can be as little as six months from the date of death.
Depending on the reason for your claim, different time limits will apply.
Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975
A claim under this Act is usually brought by a child, spouse or a person who was being maintained by the deceased. They will be arguing that the will or intestacy rules have failed to provide reasonable financial provision.
You only have six months from the date of the grant of probate or letters of administration to bring a claim. If you fail to issue your claim within this time, there are very limited grounds to persuade a court to bring a claim out of time and the court very rarely grants extensions.
Another key deadline is in place if the deceased owned joint property (meaning on their death, the other joint owner(s) received the property outright). You only have six months from the date of death to make an application to ensure these assets are preserved in the estate.
This helps to protect the value of the estate, allowing for more assets to be available to settle a claim.
Challenging the validity of a will
There is no time limit to challenge the validity of a will. This is because by challenging the validity of the will, you are arguing that the document never legally existed. However, this does not mean you can sit back and relax. The longer you leave a challenge, the more likely it is that evidence to support your case will have been destroyed or lost. For example, some law firms only keep will files for six years and these documents will contain vital evidence. Also, witnesses may have forgotten what had happened, or become ill or pass away, making it much more difficult to prove a claim.
Although you can still challenge a will after probate has been granted, the procedure is much easier if any challenge is done beforehand. Caveats can be placed at the probate registry preventing the grant from being taken out (meaning the estate cannot be distributed) until the validity challenge has been fully investigated and resolved. An unscrupulous executor (who could also be the main beneficiary) may try and distribute an estate if they become aware of a challenge to the validity of the will. For these reasons, it is better to act quickly.
Breach of trust claim, or claim by a beneficiary against an estate
Claims of this nature could relate to a failure by a trustee or executor to make the required distribution from the estate, or a claim for financial loss as a result of a breach in their duties as executor or trustee. Claims must be brought within six years of the date of the breach. If the claim relates to fraud, there is no time limit. However, as with validity challenges, you should not delay bringing your claim given that evidence is likely to get lost or destroyed as time passes.
Removal of an executor
There is no time limit to file an application to remove an executor or personal representative from their role in administering an estate. However, if the administration of an estate is near conclusion, then the prospect of successfully removing an executor reduces. You therefore need to act quickly if you have any concerns about how an executor or personal representative is acting in respect of an estate. Early action may also prevent or reduce financial losses that the estate may be incurring.
If you think that something is not right, seek legal assistance as soon as possible. GA Solicitors’ wills, inheritance and trust disputes team might be able to help you. Call 01752 203500 of fill in our contact form.