The death of someone close to you is always a hard thing to go through. It can be emotional and lengthy and no one ever wants to have to deal with it. Unfortunately, death is a fact of life and it can often be made at least a little bit easier when the person in question has left a clearly defined will with instructions as to what they want to happen to their estate after they're gone.
Normally, this is a fairly straightforward process - as long as the will is verified and in order, those people appointed as executors or trustees of the will can carry out their duties in distributing possessions and the rest of the estate in accordance with the wishes of the deceased. Generally this includes provision for any dependants, such as a partner, children or anyone else in the care of the deceased. It can also include bequests to other relatives or friends as well as institutions such as charities, universities, political parties or any other cause the person supported.
Sometimes, though, there can be issues with the will that lead to one or more parties deciding to contest its contents. To contest a will means that the person or people in question dispute the provisions laid down by the will and that they want it to be changed. Most commonly, this happens because people believe they have an inheritance claim on all or part of the estate, but claims can also be bought on behalf of others. For example, if a child under the age of 18 was left out of the will of a parent, the child's guardian might choose to contest the will in order to have the child included.
There are only certain people who are eligible to contest a will: the spouse of the deceased, a former spouse who hasn't remarried, children, step-children and any other people who may have been dependant on the deceased. If you are deciding whether to contest a will because you think you can make a valid inheritance claim, then you need to be aware that the process can be both lengthy and costly - the highest costs are likely to be emotional at what is undoubtedly a difficult time for everyone.
Deciding to contest a will involves a specialised and contentious area of law, which means that the individual circumstances of each case have to be considered very carefully. Even if you are close family and have been excluded from the will, as long as the testator was in sound mind when they wrote their will, it doesn't mean your claim will be successful. Finally, you should be aware that the animosity often created within families by a decision to contest a will can be catastrophic - spitting family and friends for a generation.