HOW LONG CAN CONTESTING A WILL TAKE ?
The following are questions that we are frequently asked regarding contesting a Will.
Contesting a Will is not typically a quick process.
There are a number of stages, which may or may not include court action.
Many people choose to settle before the claim goes as far as a trial – otherwise it can be over a year before your case is heard in court. You can find out more about the different stages of a claim in our guide ‘How do I claim against an estate?‘.
Note that some types of claims will be much quicker and simpler to deal with than others – for example, a typographical error in a Will (which is obviously an error from reading the Solicitor’s file notes) is likely to be far quicker to deal with than a claim for reasonable financial provision under the Inheritance Act.
Forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution can speed up your claim by encouraging the parties to reach an agreement quickly and without the need for a lengthy and expensive legal battle. There are different types of Alternative Dispute Resolution, such as:
- Discussion and negotiation
- Asking an independent third party to review the merits of your claim
Time limits: how long do you have to contest a will?
There are strict time limits for contesting a Will. The time limit for your claim will depend on the grounds you have for claiming. For example, if you are claiming that the Deceased should have provided for you but did not, the time limit for a claim is six months from the grant of probate/letters of administration. If you are claiming the Deceased was coerced into making their Will and leaving gifts to someone else, the time limit can be up to twelve years. You can find out more about time limits here.
Note that you should never delay in making your claim, even if the time limit for your particular circumstances is twelve years. There is a doctrine called ‘laches’ which says that if you delay making your claim, it can be deemed that you accepted the Will as valid and therefore cannot bring your claim (even if you are still well within your time limit).
Contesting a Will: Overview
The steps involved in contesting a Will are, broadly speaking:
- Step 1: Establish grounds to make a claim – you can find out about the most common grounds here. You should always seek expert legal advice at this stage.
- Step 2: Check the strict time limits. You may need to issue your claim quickly if a deadline is fast approaching.
- Step 3: Consider entering a caveat to prevent the Probate Registry issuing a grant of probate (if there is a Will) or letters of administration (if there is no Will).
- Step 4: Consider Alternative Dispute Resolution – in fact, this should be considered at every stage, but certainly before beginning court proceedings – time limits permitting.
- Step 5: Follow the Pre Action Protocol – this can be downloaded from the ACTAPs website here.
- Step 6: Commence court proceedings, assuming all attempts to negotiate have failed.
As you can see from the above steps, there are many opportunities for negotiation and many different variables which will affect how long it takes to contest a Will. Every case will be different. Your solicitor may be able to suggest a rough timescale at the outset, depending on the facts of your case.