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Making a Last Will: How do you Protect Your Will from Challenges in Northern Ireland?

The death of a loved one is fraught with raw emotion. Add to that the complexity of family dynamics, and there’s a real possibility that the grief and stress caused by the bereavement can create chaos when dealing with your estate. 

Whether it’s disappointed beneficiaries, family members claiming the Will isn’t valid, or ineffective executors, there can be numerous ways your will may be challenged when emotions are high and relationships are strained. 

So, if you’re writing a Will and are concerned it might be challenged, these steps can help make sure you’ve done all you can to protect your Will and your wishes. 

1. Have you Made Sure the Validity of your Last Will is not Contestable?

    Following the rules to make sure your Will is valid helps protect against beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries claiming that the Will itself doesn’t stand. 

    Claims that the Will is invalid can be based on: 

    • The statutory requirements for a valid Will were not met 
    • There was coercion or duress when making the Will  
    • There was a lack of mental capacity from the testator 
    • There was a lack of knowledge or understanding on the part of the testator 
    • Fraud or forgery occurred.

    If this happens, and the claim is successful, your estate will pass according to either a previous valid Will, if there is one, or under the rules of intestacy if there isn’t. 

    So, it’s essential to check this as the consequences of a successful challenge may mean your wishes won’t be carried out. 

    2. Your Executors: Have you Appointed the Appropriate People to Manage your Affairs? 

      Choosing the right people to deal with your estate is also crucial for smoothly administrating your assets. 

      Executors have a lot of power and responsibility over the estate, so choosing executors who may not get along with the beneficiaries or who aren’t fit to be executors can cause issues. 

      Beyond the more obvious things like fraud and negligence, improper executors can also cause beneficiaries to bring challenges for things such as:   

      • Delaying administration of the estate 
      • Failing to administer the estate correctly 
      • Showing bias against beneficiaries

      If you’re considering using family members to administer the estate, especially if those family members are also beneficiaries, it’s essential to choose them wisely. 

      If you feel your family may not work together very well, you may want to consider hiring professional executors to manage the estate instead. 

      3. Have you Made Promises to People not Set to Benefit from the Will? 

        If you promise a family member something and then don’t include them in the Will, that person may bring a claim of proprietary estoppel.

        So, if a person can show you’ve made a promise that they relied upon, and it would cause them detriment if that promise were not fulfilled, they may be able to bring a claim to assert their interest. 

        If the claim is successful, that person may have an interest in the assets in question, regardless of the Will. 

        4. Fulfil your Duties: Have you Made Financial Provisions for Your Dependents?

          If you don’t appropriately provide for your family and dependents in the Will, those family members may be able to bring a claim against your estate for reasonable financial provision. 

          Under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Northern Ireland 1979 Act, certain people, including your:

          • Spouse or civil partner 
          • Former spouse or civil partner 
          • Cohabiting partner living with you before death 
          • Any of your children or people treated as a child through marriage 
          • Anyone else who you were looking after before passing 

          May be able to seek provision from the estate assets. Whether or not the claim is successful is a matter for the court, which must balance the needs of the claimant and those of the beneficiaries. 

          5. Difficult Beneficiaries? Consider Adding a No-Contest Clause to Your Estate Plan

            If you think your beneficiaries are likely to challenge the Will, you might consider including a no-contest clause in the wording of your Will or trust. 

            These clauses are designed to deter unnecessary challenges by adding a condition to the gift that if a beneficiary brings a challenge against the Will, they will forfeit their interest in the estate. 

            Talk to Us

            Whilst there’s nothing you can do to completely protect against a challenge to your Will, taking these steps will reduce weaknesses in your estate planning, strengthen your wishes, and better protect your beneficiaries. 

            If you’d like to discuss ways to uphold your Will against challenges, contact one of our experts in Will, trust, and estate administration at 0800 840 9293 or click here to send us an email, and we’ll be in touch to discuss your options.


            Can a Will be Contested in Northern Ireland? 

            Yes, in Northern Ireland anyone with an interest in the Will can bring a claim to contest the Will. This can be based on the validity of the Will itself, or to challenge the estate administration. 

            How do you Avoid a Challenge to a Will? 

            The best way to avoid a challenge to your Will is to prepare your estate planning early and have the Will drafted by a professional who can advise and protect against any vulnerabilities that might be present in your situation. 

            How Successful is Challenging a Will? 

            Challenging a will is complex and depends on various factors, including the grounds for the challenge and the parties bringing a challenge. It’s important to be aware that bringing a claim for contentious probate is not only emotionally draining but can also be a long process with no guarantees for success.

            Get in touch

            To find out more about how we can help you with your query, please contact us.