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The Court of Appeal has made a new ruling that could allow a wider variety of people to bring a dispute claim against a Will to challenge its validity. In the majority of contentious probate cases, they involved those who were either entitled to administer the estate or had a share in the distribution of it. This ruling potentially widens significantly the class of persons who can challenge a Will.

The crux of this case is what it is that amounts to ‘an interest in the estate’ of the deceased. In this case we have a man bringing a claim against his former mother-in-law’s Will, which is being defended by the deceased’s daughter and the man’s ex-wife. Let’s have a bit of a closer look.

What was the Claim?

The claimants ‘interest’ was in regard to a Consent Order that was issued when the former married couple got divorced. The Consent Order detailed to pay the man a lump sum equal to 50% of the amount of any inheritance that his ex-wife received from her mother that was over £100,000.

This in fact made the man a creditor of a beneficiary – in layman’s terms he was owed money by someone who was set to inherit from the Will.

It seems like the deceased was well aware of this Consent Order as the Will in dispute limited the defendant’s inheritance to £100,000. The man challenged the validity of the Will and if successful the Will would be declared invalid, the deceased would die intestate and the defendant would be entitled to the whole estate valued at approximately £250,000 (of which he would be set to receive £75,000).

The ex-wife defended the action on the basis that the man had no legal standing to bring such claim.

The Result

Historically there has been no binding authority on the point in question in this case. There have been conflicting decisions made recently by the High Court in regards to whether a person with a claim under the Inheritance Act 1975 had such ‘an interest in the estate’. All other similar cases were over a century old.

The initial High Court decision ruled in favour of the defendant, meaning the claim was unsuccessful.

The case was then taken to the Court of Appeal who had a much different outlook on proceedings. The Court of Appeal ruled against the original High Court decision and perceived that the claimant need only demonstrate “a clear and accepted financial interest in the outcome” or a “real interest in challenging the validity of the Will”.

The Ramifications of the Ruling

The Court of Appeal’s decision means that the right to challenge a Will could become much less rigorous than might have previously been thought. The man who challenged the Will in question was a creditor to a beneficiary, not blood related or related in law, which may now open the door to other class of persons to claim against the validity of a Will. This may lay the foundations for other creditors of a beneficiary or potential beneficiary to challenge an estate.

Here at Gorvins we have a number of solicitors who are specialists when it comes to dealing with Will and Estate Disputes. If you do think you are entitled to challenge a Will on the basis that you have an interest in the estate or for some other reason then give me or the Dispute Resolution team a call on 0343 507 5151. You can also fill in our online contact form here.