When a loved one dies, there may be questions about their Will, and family members may end up contesting a will after someone has died. There could also be issues of debt to consider, and how these things are managed.
Today’s article is from Katie de Swarte, a solicitor at Child & Child, a modern law firm that offers a wide range of legal services and expertise. Katie specialises in contentious trusts and probate matters, alongside her colleague Natasha Carolan.
Contesting a will after someone has died
When a loved one dies it is one of the hardest times of your life. This article provides a very brief introduction to what may happen upon a loved one’s death that you may be unaware of and which could cause problems when dealing with their estate.
During this time, the last thing you will want to think about is the legal position you find yourself in. However, in some situations you will need to consider it. If you leave it too late you may be causing more problems in respect of your loved one’s estate.
The most important thing is to seek immediate legal advice if you are ever unsure as to your position. Do not be afraid to ask.
I have set out below some examples of the some of the situations that can arise upon a loved one’s death and a brief outline of what to do in the circumstances:
Issue 1: The deceased left debts which you cannot afford to pay
Firstly, do not pay any debts from your own money as they are unlikely to be your responsibility and you may not be able to recover this payment from the estate assets. Further, it may be that not all of the deceased’s assets and money, for example life insurance policies, should be used to clear their debt(s) so make sure you seek legal advice before paying anything, either from your own money or from the deceased’s money.
Issue 2: You do not know if the deceased made a will
There are a number of enquiries that can be made to try to find out whether the deceased made a will, before you assume there is no will. The way the estate will be dealt with will be dependent on whether there is a will or not, as different rules will apply.
Issue 3: There is a will but you do not believe it is valid
There are often arguments as to whether a will is valid or not, and contesting a will after someone has died is a route some people take.
If you think your loved one would not have made a will, or they were not of sound mind to make a will at the time the will was signed, or you have concerns that the deceased was unduly influenced into making the will you should seek immediate legal advice.
There are also times when a will may be invalid as it has not been prepared properly, especially in the case of homemade wills. Again, if you have concerns in respect of any of the above you must seek legal advice.
Issue 4: You have been left out of the will or you are not entitled to inherit where there is no will
This may mean that you find yourself without a home or struggling to cope financially. There are numerous possibilities for you in this situation and you should definitely seek immediate legal advice as there are time limitations which must be complied with.
The above is just an outline of the types of situations that can arise and is by no means exhaustive. Anything can happen and no two cases are identical. It is always better to check whether there is a potential issue rather than ignoring that ‘gut feeling’ which could be detrimental in the long run.
If you find or have found yourself in any of these situations, or are unsure as to what to do when a loved one dies, Katie de Swarte and Natasha Carolan are always willing to have a free initial telephone conversation with ‘no strings attached’ in order to advise you on the legal process, whether there are any immediate issues you should be aware of and what steps you need to take.
Please contact Katie on 020 7201 3576 or email Katie here. Alternatively, contact Natasha on 020 7201 3577 or email Natasha here for a free, no obligation, discussion – and to find out more visit the Child & Child website.
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