‘My step-brothers lied to get me cut out of a will – how do I challenge it?’

There are several ways to challenge the validity of a will. Most commonly challenged is the “ability” of the person making the will, which you would argue lacks the mental ability to make one, often due to illness or cognitive weakness.

Another potential challenge is coercion or undue influence, alleging that a person was forced to give a particular gift against their true will.

A close cousin of this type of challenge is the legal concept of “fraudulent defamation.” In order to successfully invoke fraudulent defamation, you must prove that Party A is poisoning the will of the person making the will with a lie about Party B, resulting in the person making the will dating Party B excluded from the will.

In addition, Party A needs to know that they are lying or don’t care about the truth of their claim.

Here you have two potential slanders. The first is the claim that you only took care of your stepfather to inherit. Your stepbrothers should be asked for objective evidence of this, otherwise it will appear like a lie designed to paint you in a bad light.

Second, it is factually incorrect to say that you would receive everything from your mother’s and stepfather’s wills, since those wills actually provided for the estate to be divided between the two families. Telling your stepfather that you would get the lot was definitely not true, and whether his sons believed it or not, it was reckless of them not to verify that fact.

Absolutely central to your case is the evidence from the caregivers, so I would contact them as soon as possible and get their statements on record before they decide they don’t want to be involved or their memories fade.

The good news is I think you have a potentially strong case. You need formal legal assistance and I urge you to take advantage of it and plan a strategic approach. In any legal dispute, the best way to begin any correspondence with the other party is to present a strong argument supported by evidence. I hope you will give your stepfather’s sons the shock of their lives by contacting them to present your claim.

In the meantime, if a ‘Probate Writ’ has not yet been issued in relation to your stepfather’s will, filing a reservation with the Probate Register (which costs £3) will effectively block further progress of the disputed will. This tactical move will give you time to put your case together and also shake up your stepdad’s sons to see that all is not going according to plan in this matter.

Ask a lawyer is written by Gary Rycroft, attorney at Joseph A. Jones & Co, and is published twice a month on Mondays. Email your questions to ‘My step-brothers lied to get me cut out of a will – how do I challenge it?’

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