Can You Contest a Will After Probate?

Just because probate has been granted doesn't mean you're too late to contest a will, but it does mean you need to act fast.

Can you contest a will after probate?

​​​​Ideally, if you are planning on disputing a will, you will do so before probate has been granted. Once a grant of probate is granted and assets are distributed, it becomes difficult to reassess everything.

Before probate, your solicitor would enter a ‘caveat’ to the Probate Registry to put a hold on probate. The Probate Registry can then issue grants of letters of administration. This will give you 6 months to choose if you have the grounds to dispute a will.

However, what if you can’t do that? Perhaps you don’t know what’s in the will until probate has begun.

In the UK, you have the right to contest a will under section 20 of the Administration of Justice Act of 1982. It’s not too late to attempt to contest a will. Whilst there are time limits, depending on what the grounds are for contesting a will, it is still possible to dispute it after probate.

How do you contest a will? 

Contact a solicitor as soon as possible

Explain that you are looking to dispute a will. Ensure that you give your grounds for contesting and let them know that probate has already been granted. Your solicitor will be able to let you know how likely you are to be successful. Even if a grant of representation has been given and probate has begun, but the assets have not been shared out yet, it is possible to contest.

Enter a notice

After probate has been granted, you can enter a letter of claim or threat of proceedings. This will usually halt the distribution of the assets until your claim has been resolved.

Enter an injunction

You can also ask for an injunction that stops the assets from being distributed, depending on the situation. It is not impossible to try to recover assets that have been distributed already.

Manage your documents

Try to have as much of the necessary paperwork to hand. If probate has been granted, you will have access to the will and can see how assets have been distributed. Documentation that supports your claim will help your solicitor to process your case faster.

What are the grounds for contesting a will?

No two disputes are the same when contesting a will, because every will is different. Whether it's a family member or a friend who has passed away, when bringing a claim forward to dispute a will, there are a few different reasons to present to court:

  • The deceased had a lack of testamentary capacity. Perhaps they were suffering from a mental health disorder which inhibited their ability to coherently manage a will.
  • There was undue influence when they wrote the will. In this situation, the testator would have been pressured against their will to write the will in a particular way.
  • There may have been a lack of valid execution. If the will was executed incorrectly, it will become invalid. In this case, the deceased's estate would have to follow the rules of intestacy.
  • The person who passed away wasn't able to understand or approve the will properly. This may be because they had bad eyesight or were hard of hearing.
  • Fraud and forgery. If you believe the will was fraudulently written, you can dispute it. This can be true even if you only have a suspicion that fraud or forgery was at play.

What proof do you need to contest a will?

To dispute a will, proof will be necessary in most cases. For instance, you must prove that the deceased wasn't of sound mind if that is your belief, perhaps through medical records. If you think there was undue influence when the will was written, the burden of proof would also be on you.

In many cases, fraud is accompanied by other grounds for disputing a will, such as lack of sound mind.

How long after probate can a will be challenged?

The process of contesting a will dictates that you can only do it up to 6 months a grant of probate.

The sooner you register your concern, the better a chance you have with your grounds for contesting. For example, if you wait months or even a year to contest a will, it looks like it is not particularly important to you. Then it doesn't seem necessary.

What is the success rate for contesting a will?

In England and Wales, the chances of success for contesting a will are dependent on each person's situation. There will need to be legal grounds and enough evidence for the dispute to hold weight. It's a good idea to consult an expert solicitor to determine the strength of your case. A solicitor will also be able to help you understand what you'll need to prepare before considering court proceedings.

It's uncommon for a case of will contesting to make it to court, with only 2% to 4%. Outside of this, 50% of cases are settled before court proceedings begin.

How much does it cost to contest a will in the UK?

Legal costs when you contest a will vary depending on whether the case makes it to court or not. If the defendant admits the will is invalid and it settles before going to court, the fees will be lower. Costs will likely fall into the area of £500 to £1,500.

If, however, the case goes to court, costs could reach heights of £15,000 to £20,000. If the case is extended even further, fees can elevate to £100,000.

Costs are distributed depending on the outcome of the case. Though, this is different case to case. Initially, the party contesting the will will incur the legal fees. However, whoever the losing party will likely be required to pay the winning party's costs.

Should I talk to a solicitor when contesting a will?

Contesting a will can be a difficult, long court case. Often, feelings are fraught when it comes to the death of a loved one. Surprises in a will can mean emotions can intensify.

Talking to a trained, experienced solicitor about your grounds for contesting will save you time and money in the long run. Your solicitor will be able to break down how long contesting a will might take, how you can go about it, and what your chances of success are after probate has been granted.

If you're looking to dispute a will, seek legal advice as soon as you can. With The Law Superstore, you can compare quotes and find the right solicitor for you at the right price.