If you want to contest a Will, there are strict time limits which you must abide by. The time limit will depend on the type of claim you have.
Claims for ‘reasonable financial provision’ – i.e. claims made under the Inheritance Act – must be made within 6 months of the date of issue of the grant of probate or letters of administration:
Section 4 Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 – Time-limit for applications.
An application for an order under section 2 of this Act shall not, except with the permission of the court, be made after the end of the period of six months from the date on which representation with respect to the estate of the deceased is first taken out.
Claims for rectification (for example where there has been a clerical error) must be made within 6 months from the Grant of Probate.
Other types of claims against an estate are usually governed by the rules under the Section 22 of the Limitation Act which allows 12 years of the date of death to make a claim, as follows:
Section 22 Limitation Act 1980 – Time limit for actions claiming personal estate of a deceased person.
Subject to section 21(1) and (2) of this Act—
(a) no action in respect of any claim to the personal estate of a deceased person or to any share or interest in any such estate (whether under a will or on intestacy) shall be brought after the expiration of twelve years from the date on which the right to receive the share or interest accrued; and
(b) no action to recover arrears of interest in respect of any legacy, or damages in respect of such arrears, shall be brought after the expiration of six years from the date on which the interest became due.
Sections 21(1) and (2) of the Act refer to a limitation of six years to recover trust property (from the date on which the right of action accrued). This might apply where a Trustee has breached their duties in acting for the Deceased.
However, if you believe you may have a claim against an estate, we strongly advise that you take action immediately rather wait. If the assets have already been distributed, this will make it more difficult to get the money or property that you are entitled to. Further, the longer you leave things, the greater the risk that a Court would regard it as if you have accepted the validity of the Will and therefore lost your chance to dispute it. This principle is known as ‘laches’. At its core is the notion of unconscionability – that is, whether it would be unjust to allow the claim to proceed.
If the claim relates to fraud, there are no time limits.
You can still contest the Will after probate has been issued but keep in mind it will be easier to recover the estate assets if they have not already been disposed of. If you believe you have grounds to contest a Will, get in touch with us for advice as quickly as possible. We can help you put a Caveat on the estate to prevent probate from being issued (and therefore prevent the assets from being disposed of).