Contesting a Will: The Full Guide

The emotional and financial strain of contesting a will can be a lot to bear, especially when you've just lost a loved one. There can be a lot of confusion about the process and costs of contesting a will. But if you believe that you have been left out of someone's will, you might have the legal right to dispute it. Here's our guide to contesting a will.

How much does it cost to contest a will?

The reasons above are just some of the common causes for contesting a will. If you think that you might have a case, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible. If you're thinking of starting the process, there are a number of factors to consider:

  • The cost of contesting a will depends on how complex the case is. Reasons could include the number of parties involved, and the types of evidence legally required for the dispute. 
  • The length of time for a case to be settled is also a big factor in the cost. 
  • Many types of disputes can be settled before they come to court. But if an agreement can’t be reached, be aware that court fees can be expensive. 
  • You must also be aware that any legal fees don’t automatically come out of the estate of the deceased. Costs are usually determined by the court and paid for by the losing party. In some circumstances, the fees could be deducted from the estate. 
  • Another factor that could complicate a dispute is if the deceased lived or held any assets abroad. 

It’s not possible to predict exactly how much contesting a will could cost. But a solicitor would often be able to offer you several price structures. This will help you deal with the financial burden of an inheritance dispute. 

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

The grounds you use

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 simpler. 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.


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.


Predicting how complex a case can become is difficult, but it's worth being aware that complications can arise.

If the situation with the will is complicated, it may take your solicitor more time to find a strong case. These aren’t all ‘easy wins’ so it’s 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.

On what grounds can you contest a will?

There are several reasons you may choose to contest a will, but it's important to have evidence to support your claim. The general rule is that when a person writes a will, they must be in their right mind with no forced outside influences.

Specifically, here are the legal reasons people make claims to contest a will:

There wasn't valid execution

If a will is written without the correct legal requirements in place, it's deemed to have been drawn with a lack of valid execution.

This might be because:

  • The will isn't signed by the subject of the will
  • The will is not in writing
  • The testator signed the will without any intent of making it official
  • There are not two witnesses present at the time of signing

Lack of testamentary capacity

A testator must have good mental capacity to write a will. If not, there is valid claim for a contesting of the will. Medical records of the testator might help prove this type of claim.

When someone writes a will, they must fit the following criteria:

  • They must understand that the will is laying out how their estate is to be divided
  • They must have full knowledge that they are making a will
  • They must know the value of the estate they're offering up as well as understanding the assets
  • They can't be suffering from any mental illness which can impact their capacity to make decisions around their estate
  • They must know who might have claim to their estate

Lack of knowledge and approval

To successfully complete a legally binding will, the testator must have full knowledge of the will and full approve it. When they write the will, they must have a proper understanding of its contents.

This isn't the same as not having a lack of mental capacity. Someone who helped make the will may have altered it in some way, despite the testator's sound mind.

Undue influence

If the testator is coerced into crafting their will in a particular way, this is cause for a contesting of the will. Perhaps assets were passed to someone through manipulation. Claiming there was undue influence is obviously a serious dispute. So, ensure that you have evidence before informing a solicitor.

Fraud or forgery

Fraudulent or forged wills are invalid in the eyes of the law. Perhaps a will has a forged signature or false information is used about a beneficiary to manipulate it. This is ample ground for contesting a will.

Are there extra costs when you contest a will?

If you start contesting before probate is granted, you can ask your solicitor to lodge a ‘caveat.’ The Probate Registry will then pause the probate and will cost £15.

You will need to get a copy of the will. If this isn’t 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’s less adversarial. It can often cost around £2000-£3000. It involves discussing the issue directly with the beneficiaries until a compromise can be reached.

Obviously, this isn’t 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.

Who pays to contest a will?

Upfront costs for contesting a will are usually minimal. But the process can take a long time which makes the costs build up.

It’s also important to consider that for those who will struggle to survive while probate is paused, the case can cost more. Spouses or civil partners 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.

Discussing payment issues with your solicitor as soon as possible is always important.

How to contest a will

If you choose to contest a will, be aware that there is often a time limit. You usually have six months to bring a claim once the executor of the estate in question has been given a Grant of Probate. If you think you have the grounds to contest a will, you should seek legal advice immediately. 

You don’t need to be a direct relative or a family member to have the legal right to start an inheritance dispute. You could be a partner, a close friend, or someone that was dependent upon the deceased. 

You will have to acquire a copy of the will from the executor of the estate. This is a part of the process of contesting a will. However, if they’re not willing to share a copy, a solicitor can help you apply for a caveat. You can then lodge a formal claim to court. 

Can you contest a will after probate?

Technically it's possible to contest a will after probate, but you should try to avoid it if possible.

Contesting a will after probate is more complicated. This is because it’s harder to reassess everything once the assets have been shared among the beneficiaries.

If you choose to contest a will after probate, you should contact a solicitor as soon as possible.

Contesting a will in Scotland

Contesting a will in Scotland is slightly different from England and Wales, and it can be more difficult.

The main difference is that the Inheritance Act of 1975 doesn’t apply in Scotland. This act is concerned with providing provision for family, spouses or other dependents who would suffer without provision from the will.

The grounds that are valid in contesting wills in Scotland are:

  • Incapacity
  • Facility and circumvention
  • Undue influence
  • Fraud

Another clear difference in Scotland is ‘protection from disinheritance’ or ‘forced heirship.’ This protects an automatic entitlement that children or a spouse should receive in a will. These are called ‘legal rights’. However, legal rights don’t determine how much a child should receive from a will if they don't feel they have received enough.

Legal rights also don’t apply to land and buildings. These can be passed on to anyone, not just direct descendants.

If you’re concerned about probate and think you may need to contest a will, you can fill out our quick quote form to compare highly qualified, specialised probate solicitors. 

Updated on August 2024 by Lisa Hall