Simon Steele-Williams - Partner, Coles Miller

Contesting A Will - Or Defending One23rd Jul 2014

Lawrence of Arabia star, the late Peter O’Toole, made “no provision” for daughter Patricia in his £4,042,516 will.Simon Steele-Williams - Partner, Coles Miller

O’Toole said in his will that he and Patricia had been estranged “for some years”. He also said that he had already given her a 25 per cent share in his company Keep Films Ltd.

The O’Toole family is not alone. This is a scenario being played out in households all over Britain – albeit without the multi-million pound estate and showbiz glitz.

But that does not make the circumstances any less sensitive. Particular if it leads to a will being challenged.

There is absolutely no suggestion of any legal disputes or arguments of any kind involving the late Peter O’Toole’s will.

However, other more ordinary households may find that their family wills could be challenged by those who have been omitted – it is becoming more common these days.

There are two main grounds for challenges:

  • Validity – the will is subject to some form of procedural error which renders it null and void, such as not being signed and witnessed properly or lack of capacity
  • The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 stipulates that a will (or intestacy) should make reasonable financial provision for certain family members, such as a spouse (or ex-spouse) or child. Again, there is no suggestion that Peter O’Toole’s will did not take account of daughter Patricia’s financial circumstances. She had already received a share of Keep Films Ltd.

Challenges to wills are not now covered by Legal Aid so ‘No Win No Fee’ is the most likely funding route. This applies both to those contesting the will and those defending it.

At Coles Miller, we say that going to court should always be a last resort – otherwise both sides risk collectively squandering the disputed estate on legal fees.

By far the better option is early mediation: it is cheaper, quicker and ultimately less stressful.

To find out more about disputing or defending a will, contact Coles Miller Partner Simon Steele-Williams, 01202 293226.