UK Disputed Wills

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The law of probate is a complex area requiring specialist lawyers. Numerous factors and legal requirements must be taken into account when drafting a will. Without a valid will, everything you own will be distributed according to intestacy laws and could even wind up as the property of the State.

One of the most frequently contested issues in the law of probate relates to whether or not the deceased's will was properly executed. The law sets forth specific instructions for properly executing a will, which includes requirements regarding witnesses and signatures. A will that is not executed according to the mandates of the law is invalid.

Your will should provide for the distribution of all of your assets. Any assets not bequeathed in your will may be claimed, under the law of probate, by the State. It is a scenario that can easily be avoided with a valid will prepared by a solicitor.

Another factor to consider is the changing nature of families. Birth, death, marriage and divorce all affect the makeup and dynamics of a family. These changes can affect your testamentary wishes as well. An experienced solicitor will discuss these various scenarios with you and draw up a will that considers these important contingencies.

The Inheritance (Provision For Family and Dependants) Act 1975 is the relevant part of the law of probate referable to the rights of a dependent of the deceased. Sometimes there are individuals who depend on the testator for financial support, such as a minor, spouse, partner or mentally disabled person. A dependent has the right to continued financial support after the death of the testator. Solicitors are trained to understand familial relationships and responsibilities. They create wills that specifically address your own unique situation. No mass-produced, fill-in-the-blank document can offer you this level of personalisation. A solicitor can minimise the chances of contentious probate by making sure that your will meets all of your legal obligations to your dependents.

In order to begin managing the deceased's assets, the executor must first obtain a Grant of Probate, the document that gives the executor the requisite legal authority, under the law of probate, to perform their duties. Once the Grant of Probate has been issued by the Registry, the executor can begin the work of managing the estate. It can be a lengthy, complicated process that involves selling property, liquidating shares and calling in the balance of bank accounts. After any outstanding debts have been paid, the executor distributes the remainder of the estate to the beneficiaries.

Under the law of probate executors have a personal responsibility to the beneficiaries of the will and a personal responsibility to make sure that all taxes have been paid. Because the duties of an executor can be burdensome and intense, many choose to hire a solicitor to act on their behalf.

Dying without a will is more formally referred to as dying intestate. You are not legally required to make a will. However, if you do not leave behind a valid will, intestacy laws come into effect to determine how your assets will be distributed. The distributions made under the provisions of these laws may or may not reflect your wishes. Think about your loved ones and the property you own. Do you really want the State making decisions for you?

With the assistance of an experienced will solicitor, you can create a legally enforceable document that accounts for contingencies and makes the administration of your estate easier for the people you love:-
  • fully distribute the entirety of your estate so that the State cannot claim your assets
  • ensure that a partner to whom you are not legally married receives the support not provided for by intestacy laws
  • decide what, if anything, to leave to a former spouse, given that a divorce nullifies any gifts made to a former spouse in a pre-divorce will
  • take full advantage of tax planning techniques that lawfully reduce the amount of inheritance tax due on your estate after your death

As you probably know from the prevalence of DIY will writing kits, there is no legal requirement that you use a solicitor to write your will. Plenty of businesses offer will writing services. However, those services do not use solicitors, just individuals whose qualifications consist of a couple of weeks of training. Using a DIY kit or service is extremely risky. Without the assistance of a solicitor you cannot be sure that your will is actually valid. There are many pitfalls for those without proper legal knowledge and experience. A single mistake can invalidate your entire will. Your loved ones will be left to face uncertainty as to their inheritances and possible litigation. Working with a lawyer ensures that your loved ones and your assets are protected.

The law of probate indicates that physical destruction is one means of revoking a will. Tearing up the will and/or burning the will are two legally sufficient methods of physical destruction. The will can be destroyed by the testator or by someone acting under the direction of the testator. Once the will is destroyed, it is no longer of any legal consequence. Its terms and conditions are meaningless and will have no effect on how the estate is distributed.

Accidental damage to the will does not revoke it. In cases of accidental destruction a copy of the will can stand in for the original. Also, a will is still valid even if it is lost or stolen.

Note that the testator can make changes to their will without having to completely rewrite it. A will can be altered by an addendum called a codicil. There are requirements for executing a codicil that must be followed if the amendment is to be valid.

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