If a person wishes to contest a Will, they can have the probate process stopped by applying for a caveat. The caveat gives that person, called the caveator, time to find out if there are valid grounds for contesting the Will, or in the cases in intestacy, the distribution of the estate. The caveat prevents the Grant of Representation (the Grant of Probate or Grant of Letters of Administration) from being issued so the caveator can investigate.

The Probate Registry will only issue a caveat to applicants who can show they have either an interest (they are entitled to inherit from the estate), or a contrary interest (their interests are different to those of the person applying for probate). A caveat is granted when there are doubts around one or more areas concerning the Will and its validity. Typical situations include:

• Doubts about whether the Will is valid, or the existing Will is the final version.

• The possibility that the testator (the person who made the Will) did not have adequate mental capacity when they signed the Will, or made it under undue influence.

• Where a fraudulently drawn Will is suspected.

• Disputes around who is entitled to inherit from the estate, especially when there is no Will.

• Concerns that the executors or administrators will not distribute the estate according to the Will or the Rules of Intestacy.

Once issued, the caveat will remain in force for six months, although the caveator can apply to have it extended. The Probate Registry does not have to give notice that a caveat has been issued, so an executor or administrator may only find out about the caveat when they apply for the Grant of Representation. If they do not agree with the caveat, they can serve a warning on the caveator. This requires the caveator to enter an appearance to the caveat at Court within eight days to explain why it was issued.

If an appearance is not entered within eight days, the administrator or executor can then apply to the Probate Registry for the Grant of Representation. However, if an appearance is entered, the probate process cannot continue until the dispute or problem has been resolved – either by applying to the Probate Registry for a direction hearing or through formal court proceedings.

Probate services from The Co-operative Legal Services

Probate can be complicated, confusing and lengthy so make sure you seek expert legal advice first. Our experienced legal advisers will guide you through the process, offering free advice and we can also help manage the estate and deal with the Probate Registry on your behalf.