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Caveats on probate – what’s the impact?

The probate system is currently seeing an increase in caveats. If you’re thinking of taking out a caveat or are subject to one, read on...

A caveat, which must be lodged at the Probate Registry, is a way of putting a stop to the process of administering a will after a person has died, thereby buying time to challenge the will’s validity. Lodging one is a relatively simple procedure, costing £20, and its effect is to put on hold an application for a grant of probate for six months.

Proper reasons for lodging a caveat might include disputes over:
• Who is entitled to apply for the grant of probate
• The existence of a will
• The validity of the will
• The testamentary capacity of the will writer
• The executor not providing a copy of the will to those entitled to see it
• Fraudulent activity.

The sixth months granted by the caveat are to allow the caveator (person lodging the caveat) to make inquiries as to whether there are grounds for contesting the will. The caveat can be renewed after this, for further periods of six months at £20 a time, for as many times as is necessary.

If you’re the person applying for probate, you may challenge the caveat by serving something called a “Warning”. In response, if the caveator wishes to continue their attempt, they must issue an “Appearance” within eight days. This is not a physical appearance, but a further document, sent to the Probate Registry where they lodged the caveat.

In an ideal world, the caveator and the executor will sort out their dispute within six months, the caveat can be lifted and the will administered.

However . . .
If caveator and executor can’t come to an agreement, matters obviously become more complicated. Sometimes the whole process becomes “stuck” – with caveat after caveat being served, no proof of the will’s invalidity produced and the probate blocked.

Perhaps because of long-held family divisions and disputes, increasing numbers of people are lodging caveats simply to delay proceedings, resulting in “probate wars” – which entail a lot of stress, both emotionally and financially, and often see the case ending up in a protracted court appearance.

To complicate matters, a common misconception is that a caveat can be used to bring a claim for financial provision from someone’s estate. It cannot. A claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 can only be brought once the grant of representation has been taken out.

After a spate of cases like these, courts are becoming increasingly intolerant of such time-wasting, and recent cases of those lodging spurious caveats have been punished financially.

So, it’s very apt that the word “Caveat” means “Beware”!

If you believe you have valid grounds for lodging a caveat – or if you have one applied against you – as experts in Contested Probate and all aspects of caveats, we can help keep you on the right track with sensitive, experienced and up-to-date legal assistance.

Contact us
TLB Planning specialises in legal affairs, insurances and funeral plans to take you and your loved ones “Through Life and Beyond”.

Our Legal Services staff have extensive experience in the field and are all STEP (Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners) qualified Will Drafters, so you can be confident that we provide the highest professional standards.

Whether you’re in the north of the country - Newcastle, Sunderland and Durham, south – Kent or Devon, or in Wales, if you would like to talk to us about your plans for wills, Guardianship Clauses, Lasting Powers of Attorney, trusts and other matters, do get in touch on 01792 342 673 or email us at info@tlbplanning.org.