Unfortunately, even with the existence of a will, a deceased person’s rightful beneficiaries may feel inadequately provided for, necessitating proceedings to contest or challenge the will. This means that challengers can make claims against the will for either of two reasons. There may be something amiss with the will itself or circumstances under which the will was written, or the will is perfectly legal and binding, but unfair in its distribution of assets.
In such cases, the validity of the will must be determined in a court of law. There are specific procedures to be followed pursuing such claims. As with many other civil proceedings, contesting a will can be lengthy and therefore expensive for both parties. How much the dispute is worth depends on the size of the estate in question.
There is no doubt about it – the process can be difficult and many times it can end up unsuccessful. This is especially true when challenging a legal will. When this happens, you will have to bear the cost of your own legal counsel and in some cases, the court may rule that you cover the other party’s legal costs as well.
Therefore, before you decide you have grounds on which to contest a will, you should seek legal counsel to help you decide whether there is compelling evidence before presenting your claim to a judge. This initial visit could greatly help you to save costs otherwise incurred in fighting a losing battle.
Seeking Legal Aid
If you have a legal claim against an unfairly administered will, but you are unable to cover the costs of hiring legal representation for your proceedings, there are other avenues open to you. One such avenue is seeking Legal Aid.
Legal Aid is a program for funding which is availed by the government to claimants who can prove that they have both merit and means to pursue a civil claim. The merit test examines the facts of the case that a potential claimant has, to determine whether there is enough to justify its receiving financial backing. The means test then examines their financial situation – all capital and forms of income they have.
If you pass both tests, you will receive funds to contest the will, but if not, you may have to turn to other alternative methods.
Other methods of securing funding
- Private funding
This means going to a private company to help you put up the money. This is a fast avenue, but you may incur a greater cost when refunding the money.
- Conditional funding
Alternatively, you can opt for the ‘no win no fee’ system offered by some law firms. In this case, the attorneys will review your case to determine the possibilities of victory. They will then represent you in the claim. If you win, the firm will receive a percentage of the amount you get. If you lose, then they will not be paid anything, hence the maxim.
- Legal expenses insurance
You may consider taking insurance to cover any future expenses for legal proceedings. If you have this insurance, the insurance company will be required to pay any fees for your legal matters, including if you want to contest a will.
About The Author
David Willis is an experienced attorney who has represented thousands of clients in court. For more information on contesting a will or acquiring legal aid and other forms of funding to pursue a claim click the link.