A will is a legal document that dictates your estate after you die. If you have a will, your family members are usually required to agree to it before they can receive any of your assets. If a family member disagrees with your will, they can contest it in court. After a family member contests your will, the court will decide what should happen to your estate.
A family member can challenge your will depending on the terms, but typically, they would need to prove that they are substantially affected by the will and that the will is not in their best interest. If you have made a will, make sure that you understand the terms so that you can protect your assets. If you have any questions about it, speak to a lawyer.
Even if you have a will, it is important to understand that it may not be effective if your family members disagree with it. If this happens, they may be able to contest your will after you are dead. If you are worried that this may occur, it is important to consult with a lawyer to make sure your wishes are respected and that the estate is distributed in a way that is most beneficial to you and your loved ones.
What to do when the original will cannot be found?
This is a common issue and can be a real concern for those who find themselves in this position. The family remembers the deceased mentioning they had written a Will, but then they realise they were never told where the actual document is stored. Some may even have been told that they would be the Executor of the estate.
Unlike in many other countries, in the UK, the will doesn’t have to be lodged at a registry and recorded as such for it to be valid. We are free to store our Will wherever we like. While there are strict rules for how a Will should be made, there are no requirements to report or record its existence. This means that many people have filed their Wills away in a safe or drawer without ever telling anyone where or maybe even that the Will exists.
The risk here is that, on death, their estate may be treated as “intestate” and it will be administered according to default provisions provided by the rules of intestacy. The problem with the rules of intestacy is that they don’t allow for modern family relationships. For example, they make no provision for unmarried and unregistered partners. This means that on intestacy, the surviving partner will not automatically inherit property and possessions owned in the sole name of the deceased. However, a partner can often make an inheritance claim instead, or the family can legally change the distribution on intestacy to provide for the partner.
To avoid these issues and to ensure that your wishes are adhered to, it is best to store the Will with a law firm and register it as such. While there are ways to avoid the rules of intestacy when an original Will has been lost, it does add to the time and cost of administering the estate.