Can I represent myself in a will dispute?

Published 23 Jun 2015

Author: David Cossalter

Pursuing a will dispute can be a lengthy and complex process. Unfortunately, the longer a case continues, the higher the legal fees at the end.

Furthermore, the executor's costs for defending a dispute are often taken from the estate of the deceased, which reduces the overall assets available for distribution even if your claim is successful.

The above reasons may tempt some people to represent themselves during an will dispute in order to save money. They could, for example, seek guidance from a solicitor but shoulder much of the filing responsibilities and some legal legwork themselves.

However, while this is legally permitted, there are several reasons why this approach is not advisable.

Evidence gathering is difficult

Experienced contesting a will lawyers enlist the services of specialists who can help gather evidence on your behalf. People representing themselves often don't have the skills or contacts to effectively do this on their own. A legal team can also communicate with expert witnesses who can argue your case should proceedings reach the court.

Emotional involvement

An will dispute is an emotional, stressful experience. Embarking on the monumental task of organising your own case after the death of a loved one only adds to the pressure. Naturally, this can lead to mistakes or arguments with other parties that could jeopardise your chances of success.

Settlements and mediation

Most will disputes don't make it to the courtroom. The majority of cases are settled beforehand or negotiated through mediation. Having an objective lawyer on your side is essential for navigating this process so an outcome is secured that is to everyone's liking.

Understanding legal processes

The nuances of the legal system are second nature to a contesting wills lawyer. However, procedures that a legal team takes minutes to carry out can be much more complicated for a beginner. Lawyers will also have a more comprehensive knowledge of similar cases that could swing a judge's ruling in your favour. The more help you can get from experts, the better.

Upfront costs

Representing yourself may mean saving on legal fees over the long run, but you'll need to spend a certain amount of money upfront while pursuing your claim. This often includes court charges, administration costs and investigation expenses.

A no-win, no-fee lawyer can cover these fees in advance and will only retrieve the money if your claim is successful. If you're defending yourself and lose, you may end up severely out of pocket.

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