When is it time to challenge a will?

Friday 5th May 2023

Challenging the terms of a Will because you don’t believe you have been reasonably provided for can be stressful. But imagine how much worse it could be if you decide to take that step, only to be told you are too late.

To make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 you have to issue a claim with the Court within six months of there being a grant of probate.  After six months you are out of time, unless a Court decides otherwise.

A recent case in the High Court has focused on this issue and, while the Court allowed an out of time claim to proceed, it shows the need to seek legal advice as early as possible.

In the case of Colbourne v Cooke & Others the High Court allowed an application for Ms Colbourne to proceed with her challenge to her father’s Will – despite the 6 month time limit being missed.

The Court has discretion and each case turns on its own facts, but the fact that an application had to be made for Ms Colbourne to make a claim should be a warning to anybody who thinks they want to want to make a claim for reasonable provision from an estate.

In this case the Judge accepted that the deadline being missed was not the fault of Ms Colbourne but was more likely to be the fault of her solicitors. While this may have given her the chance to pursue her solicitor for professional negligence, the Court found that it was in the interests of justice for her claim to be heard out of time – rather than having to sue her solicitors.

But imagine if you believed that you should have inherited from an estate and didn’t.  Then imagine you contacted a solicitor 6 months and 1 day after a grant of probate was obtained.  Your right to claim may well have been lost.

We are often contacted by people who want to take legal action who have, for many reasons, delayed in doing so.  The best advice is for anybody who thinks they have a potential legal claim is to seek advice as early as possible.

It may be that there is a deadline you are not aware of.  It may be that you have a hearing date approaching. It may be that you don’t know if you have a claim at all. Getting advice as early as possible protects you and puts you in the best possible position.

At Waldrons we can give you the best advice as early as possible so that you understand your position and can make the best decision for you.  Even if you decide not to take any action, at least you will do so based on sound legal advice.

If you need to discuss any issue we offer an initial fixed fee appointment which will confirm your legal position and what options you have to move forwards.  Please contact Jonathan Peck on 01384 811811.