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Statute of Limitations for contesting a will.

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  • Statute of Limitations for contesting a will.

    Hello,

    I am new to this forum, so please excuse me if I have used the wrong terminology.

    My boss passed away 8 years ago. In his will he left legacies to 7 people including myself and a small charity, with the residue of the estate to a large charity. He did not leave anything to his estranged parents or brother. Fairly soon after the funeral, we were told by the executor’s solicitor that the brother was intending to contest the will, but he has not done so thus far. The brother later mentioned that there was some of his property he had lent to the deceased, which he wanted back, but gave no proof of this.

    Over the next couple of years, the executor’s solicitor sent letters to the brother to ask if he was still going to contest the will, but received no reply.

    The deceased's estate was quite large and complicated and has been under the review of HMRC, who only recently signed off on the accounts to say they had no further interest.

    The executor’s solicitor has told the executors that while they could now distribute the estate, there is a remote possibility that the family could still try to contest the will, with an even more remote possibility that they would win, but if this did occur then the executors would be liable. The executors are obviously reluctant to do this.

    One of the beneficiaries, with the approval of three others, has discussed with the large charity if they would indemnify the executors if this occurred, but they have declined. The executor’s solicitor suggested that the 7 beneficiaries might indemnify the executors, but we have declined.

    We have found the entry on the Probate Office search facility and it states the document type is "Grant & Will" if that means anything. Some Internet research we have done mentions that the family should have lodged, and renewed, a caveat with the probate office, but we have no knowledge if they have done so.

    Finally, some questions.
    1) What is the statute of limitations after which the will cannot be contested? I believe 12 years, but I would like to confirm it.
    2) Can we find out if a caveat has been issued?
    3) Can the executors pay out the beneficiaries, but keep the residue back until the statute of limitations has passed, without risk?

    Any other suggestions gratefully received.

    Thank you in advance.
    Tags: None

  • #2
    Re: Statute of Limitations for contesting a will.

    Hi, there is not a statute of limitations as such in relation to dealing with estate claims. Any claim against the estate would have to be made within 6mths of the Grant of Probate being given, under the Inheritance (provision for family and dependants) Act 1975. The person/people claiming, would have to show that they were financially dependant on the deceased. The time limit is very strict - 6mths unless there are exceptional circumstances (which would have to be decided by the Court).
    A caveat would have prevented the Grant from being given. you could check with the probate registry whether a caveat was ever applied for but as mentioned this would have to be done prior to the Grant and would then need to be acted upon as the Court will not continually renew a caveat which prevents the Grant being made and in turn the estate from being dealt with.
    I am slightly confused why the solicitors for the executors are advising against distributing the estate when it appears that the 6 mths has passed since the grant was given, unless there is something else going on in the background that as a beneficiary you are not prive to? I suspect that waiting for the HMRC to provide clearance of the deceased's tax affairs may have delayed the time for distributing the estate. If any tax fell due that had not been paid then the executors are personally liable for this. You'll understand once distributions have been made to any beneficiaries it can be very difficult for executors to 'clawback' funds to pay any outstanding tax.
    Provided no claim has been made and the 6mth time limit has passed then specific (items) and pecuniary (money) legacies could be dealt with. However if there is still tax to pay or if creditors have to be dealt with then there may be valid reasons to hold back.
    You should receive estate accounts once they have been approved by the executors which would set out all the financial details including assets and liabilities and tax paid etc.
    Have you spoken to the solicitors acting for the executors? They may be able to give you the reason for the delay and a timescale for the distributions to be made.
    I am a qualified solicitor and am happy to try and assist informally, where needed.

    Any posts I make on LegalBeagles are for information and discussion purposes only and shouldn't be seen as legal advice. Any practical advice I give is without liability. I do not represent people on the forum.

    If in doubt you should always seek professional face to face legal advice.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Statute of Limitations for contesting a will.

      Hi and welcome.

      Regarding the "lent" property it would be necessary for the lender to identify the property, prove that he had lent it and then show it was still in the decease d's possession on his passing and that the executors had disposed of it, if he was to attempt to recover it. Difficult after such a long time! Did the executors post a section 27 notice?
      Regarding challenging the will it is extremely unlikely to occur
      a) the cost
      b) 6 month time limit (as Louise pointed out) can be extended by the courts, but the claimant needs a damned good reason for the delay before the court will allow it.

      Did the executors not effect "executors liability policy"? This would have covered their liability, and might even at this late stage be possible. Premiums paid by the estate.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Statute of Limitations for contesting a will.

        Thank you des8 and LouiseM,

        Apologies for the delay replying, the email that told me there had been a reply went into my Junk mail, which I don't see on my phone.

        I will discuss your replies with the other beneficiaries and come back to you with answers/questions as necessary.

        Regards,
        sqlb

        Originally posted by des8 View Post
        Hi and welcome.

        Regarding the "lent" property it would be necessary for the lender to identify the property, prove that he had lent it and then show it was still in the decease d's possession on his passing and that the executors had disposed of it, if he was to attempt to recover it. Difficult after such a long time! Did the executors post a section 27 notice?
        Regarding challenging the will it is extremely unlikely to occur
        a) the cost
        b) 6 month time limit (as Louise pointed out) can be extended by the courts, but the claimant needs a damned good reason for the delay before the court will allow it.

        Did the executors not effect "executors liability policy"? This would have covered their liability, and might even at this late stage be possible. Premiums paid by the estate.

        Comment

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