Advice about Disputed Inheritance

Disputed wills in Ireland can be complex and emotional affairs. The procedures for – and the cost of – disputing a will in Ireland can vary considerably depending on the circumstances in which a challenge to a will is made, and who by; and although legislation exists to protect spouses, partners and children of deceased persons, time constraints on disputed wills can often time-bar entitled parties from their legal share of a deceased person´s estate if action is not taken quickly.

This article aims to provide some advice about disputed inheritance – the reasons why wills are challenged and the time limits that apply for various parties. This information should be valuable to both those who feel their inheritance rights have been infringed and others looking to defend disputed wills in Ireland. However, for the most appropriate advice relating to your individual circumstances, it is always in your best interests to speak with solicitors specialising in inheritance disputes.

Reasons for Disputed Probate

Taking out probate is the act of having the Probate Office (in some cases the District Probate Registry) certify that the deceased person´s will is valid, and that the executor or administrator of the estate can proceed with the distribution of the deceased person´s assets subject to their wishes. There are three main reasons for disputed probate in Ireland:

  • That the will was not written and signed with two witnesses present who also signed the document – effectively the will being challenged on a technicality
  • That the person writing the will (called the “testator”) was not of sound mind to understand the content, meaning and implications of the will
  • That the will was written while the testator was under duress or inappropriate influence from another party

If a claim of disputed probate is successful the will is declared invalid, any previously made will applies. If no previous will exists, the executor or administrator of the estate distributes the deceased´s assets and property according to the Succession Act 1965 (solicitors specialising in inheritance disputes will be able to advise you of the implications of the Succession Act when you speak with them about disputed wills in Ireland).

Time Constraints on Disputed Wills

One of the most common reasons for disputed wills in Ireland is when a spouse, partner or child(ren) of the deceased person believes that their entitlement to share in the assets and property of the deceased has been compromised by the contents of the will. Different time constraints on disputed wills apply depending on the relationship of the person who is contesting the deceased´s will.

Spouses and legally-recognised civil partners are entitled to at least one-third of the deceased person´s estate (under s111 of the Succession Act 1965) but there are sometimes circumstances in which the deceased person disinherits their spouse or partner. Unless the surviving partner has renounced their entitlement to an inheritance (for example in a family law or prenuptial agreement), the law allows six years for the spouse or partner to make a disputed inheritance claim.

Time constraints on disputed wills are more evident in the cases of co-habitees or non-recognised partners, as these partners will only legally be entitled to their share of the deceased´s estate if they “qualify” within the meaning of the Civil Partnership & Certain Rights & Obligations of Co-Habitants Act 2010. This usually means that they have lived together for five or more years; but if the co-habitees or non-recognised partners are omitted from the will, they only have six months from the time of the deceased´s death to make a claim for disputed inheritance.

A child or children of a deceased person – omitted from the will – also have an entitlement to a share in their deceased parent´s estate if it can be demonstrated that the deceased parent “failed in his moral duty to make proper provision for the child in accordance with his means, whether by will or otherwise”. The child (or children) must make an application to the courts within six months of probate, and the success of their disputed inheritance claim will depend on such factors as the age, lifestyle and prospects of the child(ren) contesting the will, provisions made for the child(ren) prior to the testator´s death, and the assets and property that the surviving spouse/partner will retain from the estate.

The Cost of Disputing a Will in Ireland

Claims for disputed inheritance – or defending against disputed wills in Ireland – have costs attached to them, and the cost of disputing a will in Ireland can vary considerably depending on the nature of the dispute, its complexity, how quickly the dispute has to be resolved and the number of documents that have to be prepared. When you engage solicitors specialising in inheritance disputes, you will be advised in writing of the fees you can expect to pay before your case is accepted.

If an exact quote is not possible (due to the complexity of your disputed probate or inheritance), your solicitor must give you an analysis of how the cost of disputing a will in Ireland will be calculated in accordance with the Law Society´s “Information in Relation to Legal Charges”. This booklet also provides details of the options available to you if you are unhappy with your solicitor´s charges.

Free Advice about Disputed Wills in Ireland

The above information covers just a small number of scenarios which may result in disputed wills in Ireland. Further circumstances in which there may be time constraints on disputed wills or the costs of disputing a will in Ireland may differ include when a spouse/partner/parent dies without making a will (“intestacy”), or when not all of their assets and property are accounted for in their will (“partial intestacy”).

Therefore, it is recommended that you call our freephone advice service today – or leave your details in the form at the side of this page – and speak directly with our solicitors specialising in inheritance disputes to receive impartial advice about disputed wills in Ireland and to establish that you have a claim for disputed inheritance which is worth your while to pursue.

There is no charge for our initial telephone conversation – or obligation for you to act on any on the advice we provide – and seeking professional legal advice at a time when you may still be grieving the loss of a loved one could prevent you from taking an incorrect course of action which results in your right to an inheritance being lost.