Oxford: 01865 950972 Marlow: 01628 951283 London: 020 3883 1288

Wills Disputes Solicitors Oxford, Marlow & London


Whether you are challenging or defending a Will, our specialist lawyers can assist you to ensure your dispute is dealt with as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Who can challenge a Will?

Anyone who has an interest in the estate can contest a Will but there must be strong grounds to do so. If a person has not received as much as they expected or has been left completely out of the Will then a claim under The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 might be more appropriate and please see our Inheritance Act page.
See our FAQs below for more information.

Why instruct our firm?

We are experts at handling Will challenges and we pride ourselves on our ability to explain matters in straightforward terms using understandable language to assist you in resolving your dispute.
Our Contentious Wills & Estates team is led by Partner, Tara McInnes.
Tara has acted on a number of reported cases, the most notable of which are: acting for the trustees in the high-profile case of Brooke v Purton & ORS (2014) EWHC 547 (Ch), which was the first case to be decided since Marley v Rawlings (2013), involving the rectification of wills; and acting for the claimant in the equally high profile and widely reported case of Elliott –v- Simmonds (2016) EWHC 962 (Ch), which resulted in a change to the decision on costs in passive defence claims. More recently, Tara acted in the unreported case of Rochford v Rochford involving an adult child claim under the Inheritance Act (and details about this case can be found here) and also in the reported case of Fellner v Cleall [2021] EWHC 3599 (Ch).
Tara is also a PDSL accredited and International Mediation Institute (IMI) qualified mediator and is able to act as mediator in either contentious probate or civil litigation matters.

Will Challenges FAQ

  • What are the grounds for challenging a Will?

    There are various grounds on which a Will can be challenged, these are:
    • The Will was not properly executed
    In order to be valid, Wills must be made in accordance with the Wills Act 1837. This requires a Will to be in writing, signed by the testator (person who’s Will it is) or someone else in their presence and by their direction, and witnessed by two or more witnesses present at the same time. The testator must also intend by their signature to give effect to the Will.
    The Deceased did not have testamentary capacity
    For a person to have testamentary capacity they must:- Understand that they are making a Will and its effects.- Understand the extent of the property they are disposing. - Appreciate any potential claims against their estate. - Not be subject to any disorder or delusion which brings about a disposal which the Deceased would not otherwise have made.
    • The Deceased lacked knowledge and approval 
    The testator must know and approve the contents of their Will. The following factors might imply that the Deceased did not know and approve the contents of their Will:- The Will is overly long and complicated.- The Will represents a radical departure from the terms of a previous Will.- The Will contains spelling errors or uses language unusual for the Deceased. - The Will contains untrue statements or uncharacteristic features.- The Will is evidence of unusual behaviour of the Deceased.
    • The Deceased was unduly influenced
    If someone is exerting undue influence over the writer of the Will, it will not be valid. This means coercion, not necessarily force, but requires something more than mere influence. In order to succeed in this type of claim, it must be proved that:- The defendant was in a position to exercise influence.- The defendant did exercise influence.- The influence was undue.- The undue influence was exercised in relation to the Will.- It was by means of exercising the undue influence that the disputed Will came to be executed.
    • The Will was forged
    These cases are usually based on arguments that:- The testator’s signature on the Will is not genuine.- The testator was led to believe they were signing a document other than the Will. - Changes are made to the Will after the testator’s signature without their permission.
    The burden of proving a Will is invalid is on the person challenging the Will which means that it is up to them to prove that the Will is not valid. If any of the above grounds are proven to be true the Will may not be valid and the estate will pass either in accordance with the terms of an earlier Will, or is there is no earlier Will, under the laws of intestacy.

  • What evidence will the Court consider?

    Each claim is decided on its own facts. The Court will take into consideration the following evidence:
    • The solicitor’s (or the person who prepared the Will) file of papers.
    • The evidence of the Will writer who took instructions and arranged to have the Will executed (known as a Larke v Nugus statement).
    • Medical evidence in the form of medical notes and evidence from a GP or capacity expert.
    • Witness evidence as to the Deceased’s capacity at the time when the Will was executed.
    • Any other relevant evidence.

  • What is the time limit for making an application?

    The time limit for making an application will depend on the type of claim you are looking to bring. Therefore legal advice should be obtained sooner rather than later so that we can determine which type of claim you are bringing and what the time limit is.

  • How would I fund my claim?

    Where parties are unable to fund their claim on a privately paying basis, our firm may be able to consider offering a legal funding arrangement in the form of either a Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA) “no win no fee” agreement or a Deferred Fee Agreement (DFA) where the payment of legal fees are postponed to the conclusion of the claim.
    Provision of a funding agreement will be discussed in detail and is considered on a case-by-case basis. It can often be difficult to calculate the prospects of success of a Will challenge and therefore we often set an initial estimate to cover the investigatory stage of the matter. This stage enables us to obtain all relevant documentation and assess the prospects of successfully challenging a Will and considering whether we are able to offer a funding agreement. Please contact us for a quotation.

  • How would the claim be settled?

    We deal with these types of disputes sensitively and pragmatically taking into account family relationships and the emotional impact of the claim. It is often more appropriate to resolve the issues without going to Court. We aim to resolve most disputes by mediation which can be more cost effective and timely than lengthy Court proceedings. However, where Court proceedings are unavoidable then we will actively argue the claim.

  • What can I do if someone is bringing a claim against an estate I inherit from?

    If you are a beneficiary or an executor of an estate and a claim has been raised against the estate, then you will need to consider how to resolve it. Executors usually act neutrally where claims are brought against the estate, which essentially means leaving it up to the beneficiaries (persons who inherit) to defend any claim.

Can we help?

Whether you need to dispute a Will or defend your inheritance, we will work with you to achieve the best results for you.
We are more than happy to have an initial conversation to confidentially discuss such types of claims.
Should you wish to speak with us, please contact Tara McInnes at moc.pihsrentrapedisnrubeht%40sennicm.arat or call 01865 987781.

Every client is valued equally and treated with genuine compassion.

Legal 500, 2019

Contact The Burnside Partnership

For more information on our services or how we can help, please get in touch.