How do I contest a will?

"Ten years ago my father retired and emigrated to France where he married again. However, he recently passed away, leaving wills in both France and the UK that left his assets to different parties. What rights do I have to contest the wills?"

Ask the Professionals: Lauren Parker, solicitor at law firm Mills & Reeve, says:

The first issue to consider is whether both wills are formally valid. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the preparation and execution of your father’s wills, you may be able to contest their validity on one of four grounds: the wills must be correctly signed and witnessed, you father must have understood the nature of his wills, known of and approved of their contents and the wills should reflect his intentions and not those of any potential beneficiaries.

Assuming that both wills are valid, you will need to ascertain the order in which they were executed, since the most recent will revoke an earlier one. If your father died domiciled in either England or Wales you may be able to bring a claim against his estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, on the basis that he failed to make reasonable financial provision for you.

The second point to consider is that, irrespective of the terms of either will, any immoveable property, situated in France (such as land) must be passed in accordance with French succession laws. Unless the immoveable property was owned en tontine (akin to joint owners in England), a fixed share should pass to you and your siblings. Seek the advice of a French lawyer as to the validity of the French will and its impact on your father’s French estate.

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