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Alistair Rustemeyer

Partner - Brighton & Hove

The Use of a Caveat over an Estate

The first many people hear about a potential dispute over a Will is when their application for Probate is rejected as a result of a Caveat being lodged over the Deceased’s Estate. It can be extremely concerning to realise that someone may be preparing to challenge the Will and even more so if a Caveat is not something you have heard of before. In addition, if you have concerns over the validity of a Will, then a Caveat could be a useful tool to enable you to look into your concerns, without fear that the Estate will be distributed.

At Rix & Kay our specialists are here to help you to navigate any Estate dispute; but we intend this quick guide to answer some of the initial questions you may have about Caveats.

What is a Caveat over an Estate?

A Caveat over an estate is a notice, made by application to the Probate Registry, to prevent anyone being able to obtain a grant of probate in the Deceased’s Estate; so the Estate cannot be administered or distributed.

Who can enter a Caveat over an Estate and why would it be required? 

A Caveat over an estate can be entered by a beneficiary, family member or relevant third party if they have concerns over the validity of the Will. It allows time to investigate the concerns over validity, and to potentially bring a Claim to the Court or negotiate a settlement.

It can be requested online for a £3.00 fee (correct at the time of drafting).

How long does a Caveat over an Estate remain active for? 

A Caveat will last for 6 months from the date it is applied and can be renewed in 6-month increments. Requests for renewal should be made in the final month leading up to expiry.

How can I remove a Caveat over an Estate? 

A Caveat can be removed by the person who requested it (the Caveator) at any point in the 6-month period. This is often as simple as writing to the Probate Registry with the request.

If the Caveator is not willing to remove it, then an Executor or beneficiary of the Estate can issue a Warning. If the Caveator does not lodge an Appearance within the prescribed time frame, the Caveat will fall away.

Both the Warning and Appearance are specific legal documents.

If an Appearance is made, then the Caveat becomes permanent over the Estate. It no longer needs to be renewed every 6 months and removal would usually be by way of consent between the parties.

There are additional legal options to seek removal of a Caveat which has been made permanent, but this quick-guide will not cover these, as they can be complex.

Things to note

Before a Caveat is entered, or any attempt to remove it is made, the wider situation should be carefully considered.  There may be serious cost consequences if the Court determine that a Caveat was inappropriate from the outset, or should have been removed if evidence did not support the concerns over validity. In addition, the Court can apply cost penalties to a party attempting to prematurely remove a Caveat, without allowing the Caveator time to investigate their concerns.

The use of a Caveat is widely held to be an abuse of process in cases where the validity of a Will is not challenged, but where the adequacy of financial provision under the Will forms the basis of the dispute i.e. those cases bought under The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

If you have encountered a Caveat over an Estate, or believe that one may be required, please do contact us at the details below:

Alistair Rustemeyer

Partner, Solicitor

T: 01273 329797

AlistairRustemeyer@rixandkay.co.uk

 

Rosie Duplessis

Chartered Legal Executive

T: 01273 329797

RosieDuplessis@rixandkay.co.uk

 

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