There are certain elements that will increase the cost of contesting a will, so it’s always important to discuss with your solicitor whether the grounds you have for contesting are solid.
Things that can affect the cost of contesting a will
Grounds – the stronger the grounds for contesting the will, the quicker the process will be. This means fewer hours spent by your solicitor, and hopefully no need to go to court. Certain grounds for contesting are more difficult than others to prove, but if you feel you have evidence or have access to documents that can make your case for you, this may be more simple. Always chat to your solicitor about the likely outcomes for your case and which grounds are the best for you.
Court fees – going to court will cost more, and the longer a case stays in court, the more the fees pile up. Many cases are settled out of court, which is less costly.
Time – the sooner you lodge your complaint, the stronger your case looks. By waiting to contest, you not only face more difficulties with probate, but it can make your grounds for contesting weaker.
Complexity – it is difficult to predict how complex a case can become, but it is worth being aware that complications can arise. If the situation with the will is very complicated or becomes complicated whilst contesting, it may take your solicitor more time to find a strong case. These are not all ‘easy wins’ so it is worth considering if the value of contesting is worth the time and money. Your solicitor will be able to let you know if the case is particularly complex.
If you start contesting early, before probate is granted, you can ask your solicitor to lodge a ‘caveat’ with the Probate Registry. This will cost £15 and will put a hold on probate being obtained.
You will need to get a copy of the will – if this is not granted by the beneficiaries, you can pay £10 for a copy.
What about mediation?
Mediation can be a lower-cost option when contesting a will, as it is less adversarial. It can often cost around £2000-£3000 and involves discussing the issue directly with the beneficiaries until a compromise can be reached. Obviously, this is not applicable in all situations, but for those where there is a positive or neutral relationship between the beneficiaries and those contesting, mediation may be a suitable option.
Upfront costs for contesting a will are usually minimal, but it is ongoing and can take a long time, with the costs building up. It’s also important to consider that for those who will struggle to survive whilst probate is paused, the case can cost more – spouses who have their joint accounts locked after the passing of their husband or wife for example. In some cases, costs may be recovered from the other side or upon receipt of the settlement. It is always important to discuss payment issues with your solicitor as soon as possible.