Q: My mother and I fell out over my boyfriend, who is now my fiancé. She has not had anything to do with me for more than three years and I have heard she has changed her Will so that my fiancé cannot benefit from her estate. I am an only child and I hope one day to have her grandchildren, but I am told she wants her estate divided between her next door neighbour, who has looked after her since she had a stroke last year, and the children of a friend whom she refers to as ‘my surrogate grandchildren’. Could I challenge her Will? And how?
A: If what you suspect about your mother’s wishes are correct it may be difficult to successfully contest her Will as your exclusion from it would most likely be viewed as the result of a long-standing family feud. In addition, it would appear that you have not latterly been financially dependent on her and so the Court would strive to uphold your Mother’s Will.
If however you believe that your mother didn’t have capacity when she changed her Will, or didn’t understand or approve its contents, or that there has been fraud, or that undue influence may have been put on her by those whom you believe will benefit, then you could challenge it.
Sometimes Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is used to settle disputes about Wills. This can be a cheaper way of resolving matters, which means that more money is retained in the deceased’s estate, for distribution to the parties concerned.
Courts and Judges encourage parties to embrace ADR wherever possible. There is no doubt that it has been shown to break down the divide between ‘winners’ and ‘losers’, which means that a dispute is more likely to be settled this way, than any other.