Contesting a will – or a contentious probate case, as they are more properly known – is definitely possible. But it can get expensive. So, how much does it cost to contest a will?
Let’s get into the how, why, and how much of contentious probate:
Why Contest A Will?
1) It’s Out Of Step With The Deceased’s Current Life
Most people don’t regularly update their will. This means that when they sadly pass on, their statement of wishes may no longer reflect their current situation in life.
For example, most people overlook the need to update their will even following very significant events like getting married. This means their will would ignore perhaps the most important person in their life.
2) Lost Mental Capacity
You may believe that a will is invalid because the person who made it did not have the mental capacity (sometimes called “testamentary capacity”) to make or change it at the time it was written.
When a person has been judged to have lost mental capacity and has no will, the Court of Protection (the part of the legal system covering these matters) may also order a “statutory will” to be created.
It’s not uncommon for statutory wills (which can be thought of as automatic wills made by the court) to be challenged by loved ones who believe the will does not represent the sadly departed’s wishes.
3) Undue Pressure Or Mistakes
Sometimes a will may not have been signed or witnessed correctly or another mistake made in creating it.
In thankfully rarer circumstances, a friend or family member of the deceased may believe that someone else pressured the person who has died into making or changing their will. Or that the will is some kind of forgery or represents an attempt at fraud.
Who Can Dispute A Will?
If a will has been judged legally valid, you can only contest it if you have what is called a “vested interest” in it. This is limited to the following people:
- Beneficiaries named in the current or a previous will
- Direct family members of the deceased
- People who relied on the deceased financially
- Creditors owed money by the deceased
Do You Have To Pay To Contest A Will In The UK?
Yes, it will cost money to contest a will in the UK. It can also be a stressful and emotional process – especially if the person who has passed away was very close to you.
This means it is worth thinking very carefully before you decide to contest a will. You should consider speaking with an experienced will or probate solicitor about your particular case before you decide to go ahead. They are in the best position to help you judge your likelihood of success.
How Much Does It Cost To Contest A Will In The UK?
The cost of a contentious probate case will largely depend on how long it takes to reach a result. For instance, your opponent in the dispute might quickly accept they are in the wrong. However, there is every chance they might not.
Some ballpark figures as to the general costs of contesting a will would be:
- Quick acceptance following initial contest – if the person you are contesting the will with relents swiftly and accepts the will is wrong, you might only face fees of £500 to £1500.
- Going into mediation or non-prejudicial negotiation – this kind of non-court discussion can resolve many cases but can cost anywhere from £7500 to £10 000. Around half of all contentious probate cases never go further than this stage.
- Reaching a negotiated settlement – a longer process might cost anywhere from £10 000 to £25 000 or more plus disbursements (payments made to third parties to make the process go ahead).
- Full court process through to final hearing – a cost of £60 000 to £100 000 plus disbursements would not be uncommon for this. Fewer than 1 in 50 contentious probate cases go to final trial though.
Who Pays The Cost Of Contesting A Will?
Every person involved in a will dispute will have to cover their own costs, at least at the outset. However, if you win your case, it is possible that the other side may have to pay your legal fees.
Yet this is not guaranteed. The court has a large degree of discretion when it comes to deciding who foots the bill. It could decide to split the costs, that both sides’ costs are paid by the deceased’s estate, or that it’s fairer for both sides to pay their own costs.
The court will also take into account factors like whether one side refused a settlement offer that later turned out to be very fair.
In short, it can cost a lot of money to contest a will. This makes it vital to work with a specialist will and probate solicitor who can guide you not only towards a successful result in your case, but also in how to minimise the costs of getting there.
Need To Speak To A Specialist About How To Contest A Will And How Much It Might Cost?
Talk it through with us now. Solicitors Near Me can put you in touch with a friendly and helpful specialist in just this field of law.