It is portrayed in the media all the time; a character dies and their family is called together for a meeting with their legal team in a darkened room, for one member to be unexpectedly left everything, while other family members are horrified and angered to learn that they have nothing. And, depending on if this scene is occurring in an office or a pub (as is the way with soap operas) a fight inevitably erupts, adding to the drama!
But, in real life, it is not like this and while a glamourised idea, the reality surrounding wills and probate in the UK is a lot more sombre and less dramatic.
In this article, the fact and the fiction surrounding probate in the UK will be explored, so you can feel a bit more confident when approaching a legal team about this ever-so-delicate legal issue.
Myth- the will needs to be read
Actually, no; when you are contacted by probate solicitors Portsmouth relating to the will left by a loved one, this is typically done over the phone or in private, away from other members of the family, unless you request to have them there. This is usually to do away with scenes of drama and arguments at a time when family tensions may already be high.
Myth- the will cannot be contested
Under UK law, anyone mentioned in the will or another close family member can indeed contest a will, if they feel that they have been left out of it or feel it is wrong. The most common reason for this to occur is if the person feels that the will was written under duress.
But if you have a close family member who has passed, and you have some queries about their will and its legitimacy, contact your local solicitor who is trained in probate for advice.
Myth- you will always need to apply for probate
If a will exists and the value of the estate that is left is less than £5,000, then it is unlikely that you will need to apply for probate.
Probate is usually only required if someone passed away without a will, or if they have properties, assets or other valuables that are estimated to be worth more than this threshold. It can also be worth approaching a solicitor for help with probate if your loved one owned shares or had properties overseas, as this can be very technical and complicated.
Myth- a will can be contested by anyone
As mentioned earlier, if you are a close family member or you are the executor of the estate, or a partner (legally binding through marriage or civil partnership), then you can contest the will. A second nephew twice removed cannot!
This is, once again, depicted in the media where a random person who was promised money can overturn a will, which would never occur in real life.
Myth- probate as a process is quick
Sadly, this is not the case (especially due to the pandemic) and probate can now take several months to process, prolonging the paying of debts and division of the assets among the beneficiaries.