How Long Do You Have To Contest A Will in the UK?
  • 22nd Dec 2021
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Contesting a will can be a challenging process, and one that differs in length, complexity and cost for every case. If you are considering disputing a will, it is important to seek professional legal advice as soon as possible. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your claim, time frames for making a claim can be as short as 6 months from the date of the grant of probate.

To shorten proceedings, many cases are settled before the claim reaches court trials, as organising a court date can take up to 1 year in some cases. Although in many circumstances there is plenty of time for the claimant to organise their case and legal support, alternative arrangements to settle disputes are encouraged, such as mediation and negotiation. This can allow all affected parties to avoid the time and financially consuming process of taking claims to court.

Legal Timelines - How long do you have to contest a will in the UK?

Timelines and deadlines will vary depending on the time of claim that you are making. These timeframes are governed by the Limitation Act 1980. Generally, claimants can expect to be held to the following timelines for these types of contests against a will. 

Type of Claim Timeframe
Claim for maintenance or reasonable financial provision under the Inheritance Act 1975 6 months from the issue of probate
Clerical errors 6 months from the issue of probate
Claims against an estate 12 years from the date of death
Fraud No time limit

How long does the process of contesting a will take?

There are a number of steps to complete in the process of contesting a will, and the length of the process will largely hinge on the type of claim that is being made. Timeframes can also depend on the complexity of the case at hand, and how much evidence or information is readily available to support the claim. 

Generally, claims based on clerical errors are quicker to deal with as the issue is much easier to identify and prove. Other claims such as fraud or reasonable financial provisions can be more challenging to prove and can therefore take longer to resolve. 

In all cases, settling a claim before it is taken to court will reduce the length, and cost, of the process. In some cases, claimants may have to wait for up to 1 year for their time in court. 

When to seek legal advice

Despite some types of claims allowing length time windows for lodging a claim, it is always advised to seek legal advice as soon as possible. 

In many cases, delaying in making a claim can be deemed as your acceptance of the will as valid and you could lose your chance to lodge any disputes. Additionally, while a beneficiary making a claim against an estate can do so within 12 years of the issue of probate, it is still advised that these claimants seek legal advice immediately. Claims can also be made after probate, however it can be more challenging to contest a will after the estate has been distributed and settled. 

Legal Support & Advice for Contesting a Will in the UK

The process for contesting a will can be lengthy and can be disrupted by numerous factors. No matter your considerations or reasoning for contesting a will, seeking legal advice as soon as your concerns arise can help you to achieve the best possible outcome.

If you are considering contesting a will and are wondering how long you have to lodge your claim, speak to a member of our specialist team, experienced in handling disputes over wills and estates. All of our team members are part of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP), so you can be assured that you will be receiving the best possible knowledge and advice regarding your contest case. 

For more advice and support on contesting a will and what to expect from the process, get in touch with our Canterbury, London, Maidstone and Tenterden will and estate dispute solicitors today.