You may have seen several news items recently surrounding the family legal battle that is about to ensue following the death of Lisa-Marie Presley in January 2023.
It has been announced that Priscilla Presley is disputing a 2016 amendment to her late daughter’s Will that removes her and a former business manager Barry Siegel as trustees. Lisa Marie’s children from her first marriage, Riley and Benjamin Keough, are now named as trustees instead. However, due to the tragic death of Benjamin in 2020, only Riley remains as a sole trustee. For various reasons, Pricilla is arguing that the amendment is invalid, citing concerns such as inconsistent signatures and spelling errors. The case has yet to be concluded, and it remains to be seen whether her claims to invalidate the Will are successful, regaining full control over the estate.
While this case is slightly unusual due to the size, prominence, and value of the estate – reported to be valued at over $100 million – and it will be decided under US Law.
Will disputes in the UK have been on the rise for many years. We look at some guidance from our Wills and Probate department on the reasons a Will can be disputed and steps to resolving a Will dispute.
What are the reasons to contest a Will?
The grounds for contesting a Will in the UK must include a valid legal reason. The common reasons you can challenge a Will include:
- Lack of due execution – A Will has to comply with certain formalities. If there is a lack of due execution, this is a ground on which you can dispute a Will.
- Lack of testamentary capacity – The testamentary capacity refers to the mental and legal ability of the testator to make or alter a valid Will. If the testator lacks testamentary at the time of executing the Will, then the Will is regarded as invalid.
- Undue influence – This refers to when a person is forced or coerced into making or changing the contents of the Will so that it benefits them. If you have evidence of this, it is grounds for contesting a Will.
- Fraudulent calumny – This is the instance where the testator makes their independent decision to make a Will, but their view of the initial beneficiary has been skewed or altered by another beneficiary which has affected how they draft their Will. It is very similar to undue influence.
- Fraud or forgery – When a Will has been made without the knowledge of the deceased, or the signature on it is forged, this would be considered a forged Will. This often happens when fraudsters target elderly people who do not have contact with their families and convince them to put them in their Will.
- Rectification – if you believe there has been a mistake in the drafting of a will, such as an error in the recording of the testator’s wishes.
Importance of having a legally validated will in place
One of the biggest steps you can take to avoid an inheritance dispute is having a well-drafted, legally valid Will that is checked and updated regularly. Here are some of the main benefits of having a Will and why everyone should have one:
- Ensures that your estate will be distributed according to your wishes. It will also make it easier for your family or loved ones to manage your affairs at the time of your death.
- Intestacy – distributing the estate of someone who has died without a will – can be a time-consuming and stressful process. Your estate will be shared out in a standard way defined by the law and will not necessarily follow your intended wishes.
- A well-drafted will can help reduce the amount of Inheritance Tax that may be payable on any money or property you leave behind.
- If you have children or other dependants, a will is vital to protect your family, allowing you to appoint guardians, for example.
- If you already have a Will, it is essential that you review its content to ensure it is still in line with your wishes.
- Avoid arguments. Your family and other beneficiaries will have your wishes clearly laid out, leaving less room for disputes over who should get what.
How can you resolve Will disputes?
Challenging the validity of a Will can be a highly complex process, and you should always seek advice from a regulated professional with specialist knowledge of Wills and contentious probate rules. In some cases, Will disputes may have to go to court, which can be an extremely expensive and lengthy process, highly stressful for all involved. Wills disputes of any nature can be highly complex. It is essential to seek legal advice as soon as possible about whether such a claim is valid, what routes you can take to resolve the dispute and whether there is any merit in contesting a Will.
Our solicitors at Bookers & Bolton will work with you and your family to support you through this complicated and overwhelming process, ensuring that all legal requirements are met and disputes are resolved quickly and as stress-free as possible. Regardless of whether you are defending a Will dispute claim against you or need to question the validity of a Will, we can help.
Get in touch
To speak to a member of our Private Client team, please call us on 01420 558 290/330 or email us at email@example.com. Alternatively, you can visit our office at 6 High Street, Alton, Hampshire, where you will be greeted by a friendly face who can speak to you and assist you with your enquiry.