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Rights to challenge a will

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  • Rights to challenge a will


    My brother and I believe we have been disinherited. My father remarried after the death of our mother. Our father changed his will basically setting out that if our stepmother predeceased him then my brother and I would get 50/50 share of 75% of his estate and my step sister 25%. If he predeceased her, then his full estate would be passed to our stepmother. We were led to believe at the time that our step mother had a made a mirror will.

    Our father died first, and as executors of his will we carried out what was required to fulfil his will ie everything passed to our stepmother. She told us verbally that she would change her will to ensure her estate was split equally between ourselves and our step sister.

    Our stepmother died last year. There was no discussion at the funeral about the will - it would have been inappropriate to raise this at such a personally upsetting time for our step sister.
    We subsequently heard nothing from her on the matter.

    However, a few weeks ago we were contacted by the lawyer who handled our father's estate asking us to sign something for shares that had just been discovered that my father bought while married to our mum, so that these could be passed to our step sister.

    This prompted us to get a copy of our step mother's will. It was dated 2 months before our father died. She left her half of the home she shared with our father to her step daughter as well as the rest of her estate - and no mention of myself and my brother. This basically means our step sister gets everything, as with my dad dead, our step mum got all of his estate, subsequently passed on to our step sister by the provisions of her will as outlined above. The estate has significant value and there is a principal at stake. The will is under Eng/Wales jurisdiction. Do you have advice on how we can get justice and a fair settlement here as we feel we have been disinherited.

    Thanks in advance

  • #2
    Re: Rights to challenge a will

    Contesting a will

    A will may be perfectly valid, properly written and witnessed, made without any duress or coercion by someone in full possession of their faculties who understood all the implications of the decisions they were taking. So what happens when you wish to challenge the provisions made in a will rather than query the legality of the document itself? The law makes provision for disappointed beneficiaries to challenge a will in two scenarios where these circumstances most commonly arise:
    • If you were given assurances by the testator during their lifetime about inheriting land or property only to have those promises not honoured in the will. In that case, you could use a legal challenge called Proprietary Estoppel.

    see here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proprietary_estoppel

    a proprietary estoppel arises when a person has been given a clear assurance, it was reasonable of them to rely on the assurance, and they have acted to their detriment. This threefold pattern of proprietary estoppel (clear assurance, reasonable reliance and substantial detriment) makes it consistent with its partner in the law of obligations, "promissory estoppel".
    Kati x
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    • #3
      Re: Rights to challenge a will

      If you intend to proceed with your claim, I would strongly advise you speak to a solicitor who have a dedicated contentious probate team.

      Ref the possibility of a proprietary estoppel claim against your late step mothers estate you might find the attached article of interest

      Promissory estoppel refers to a promise not being implemented in the will. You would need to show that you relied on that promise and have suffered loss because of that reliance.

      Advice must be to try and sort this out with your step sister. The costs could out weigh gains if any, without taking into account the further damage to any residual relationship you might have with your step sister.


      • #4
        Re: Rights to challenge a will


        I am so very sorry to read of your trials and of course for your loss.

        In your position (it's so complicated and so much at stake) I would certainly be looking for specialised legal advice.

        From your post above - at a cursory reading it appeared to me that your father might have (or have had the intention to do this) left some kind of life-time trust whereby your stepmother would benefit during her lifetime and upon her death his will would be implemented.

        Is there any chance you could post up the relevant clauses in the Wills in order to elucidate further (removing identifying personal details)?


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