What happens when a sibling contests a deceased parent’s will?

 

Whilst many hope that the death of a parent would only bring siblings together, sibling rivalry, whether long-founding or recently formed, is often exacerbated on the death of a parent. Emotions are heightened and grief can fuel all sorts of disagreements, particularly where the parent’s will does not provide equally for those siblings, and can cause the brother or sister to contest the parent’s will. 

Unlike in other jurisdictions, in England and Wales there is no requirement on parents to provide for their children on their death nor must they provide for children equally. Despite this, where a parent disinherits one child and not the other, or leaves one child a significant amount and the other much less, it often triggers disputes as to the validity of the will by the disappointed child. With this often comes accusations as to the care provided to the parent or the motive behind the relationship which makes disputes between siblings all the more filled with emotion and anger.  

 

So, what happens if your brother or sister contests your parent’s will? 

The first thing that may happen when a sibling contests a parents will is that the disappointed sibling place a Caveat on the parent’s estate. A Caveat prevents anyone from obtaining the Grant of Probate and so delays administration of the estate pending resolution of the dispute. If the Grant of Probate has already been obtained, you or the personal representatives of the estate may receive a request to place administration of the estate on hold whilst investigations take place. Personal representatives should remain neutral to any claim and as such, are advised to place administration on hold whilst the dispute is resolved so as to avoid any personal liability for any distribution. As a beneficiary, you are not required to be neutral and can defend claims brought by siblings. 

You may then receive a ‘Letter of Claim’ or similar, setting out details of the claim. This should usually set out the grounds on which the will is being contested and any evidence to support that suggestion. Evidence often includes medical records, notes from the will file and witness evidence.  

If a Caveat has been entered or you are on notice of a claim, it is sensible to seek legal advice on your position. You will usually need respond to the Letter of Claim with a ‘Letter of Response’. This will again include evidence to support your position that the will is valid and can include suggestions for resolution of the dispute.  

Correspondence will often go back and forth and your legal advisor will advise you as the merits of the claim and defence and the best way to proceed.  

As with the majority of cases and particularly where siblings are challenging a will, it is sensible to consider ways to avoid Court and try to reach an agreement that works for everyone. What is best will be case dependant, but mediation is often an effective way to try a settle the claim without proceeding to Court. Mediation involves a ‘mediator’ who will go between the parties to assist in attempts to settle the claim. Parties do not have to see one another and mediations can be conducted remotely with little inconvenience to those taking part. 

At IDR Law, we are experienced in representing both claimant and defendant siblings in situations as described above. This means that we understand both the legal reality and emotional enormity of an inheritance dispute between siblings and appreciate the grief, anger, hurt and upset that is coupled with this. We are sensitive to this and work with you to try and find a solution which works despite these difficult and often unavoidable emotions. 

Please do get in touch if you are facing a claim by a sibling or if you have concerns about a parent’s will and wish to investigate the same, or find out more about contesting a will. 

 

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