If you have a concern about the validity of a Will, one of the first steps you can consider taking is to lodge a caveat at the probate registry. Once a caveat has been entered in respect of an estate, the executors will be unable to obtain a Grant of Probate and the estate administration will be blocked. This will allow you time to investigate the circumstances surrounding the Will and gather the evidence needed to bring a successful validity challenge.
Entering a caveat is a simple process and many clients have already done this themselves before contacting us. All you need to do is complete a form (available online) and send it, together with payment of £20, to a probate registry. The form requires details of the deceased and ensure that you include the deceased’s full name together with any other names they may have been known by in order for it to be effective.
Once the caveat has been entered, the probate registry will write to confirm this to you and it will remain in force for a period of six months. You can keep renewing the caveat every six months unless it is challenged (see below).
If you decide you want to remove the caveat, all you have to do is write to the probate registry to explain this.
If the executor does not consider it appropriate for a caveat to have been entered, they are likely to try to have it removed by attempting to “warn it off”. They will do this by issuing you with a document called a “warning” which requires you to explain your reasoning for entering the caveat and your interest in the estate. If you receive this, you will have a period of eight days to respond to the warning with a document called an “appearance”. Failure to reply with an appearance within this time limit will mean that your caveat is removed automatically by the probate registry and a Grant of Probate will be able to obtained. It is therefore very important that you act quickly if you receive a warning and that you seek legal advice if you require any assistance.
Once an appearance has been lodged with the probate registry, your caveat will become permanent and only able to be removed through a court order. Removing a permanent caveat can have cost implications as a result and so responding to a warning is something which should always be considered carefully.
Caveats should not be used if you are contemplating a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. This is an Act whereby you are not challenging the Will itself but the distribution of the estate. Entering a caveat in these circumstances is considered to be an abuse of process.
It is important that you seek specialist advice in relation to any difficulties you may be having with caveats. For further information on how we can help you, contact a member of our probate litigation team at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0161 941 4000.