Placing a caveat on a will

Caveat on will

What is a caveat?

A caveat is a legal notice to suspend proceedings until the person notifying is given a hearing. A caveat is usually placed on a will if someone disputes the will after the death of the testator (person who made the will). If someone else applies for a grant of probate (see below) the caveator (person who placed the caveat) will be given warning.

What is a grant of probate?

A grant of probate confirms the authority of the executor (person named in the will) to deal with the deceased’s estate. It is issued by the Probate Registry, which is part of the court service. The probate enables the executors to manage the assets such as property, personal possessions and money of the deceased. It is used to show that the executor has got right to access funds, manage the finances and collect the assets left by the testator.

When is it needed?

The grant is needed if the deceased left:

  • Stocks and/ or shares
  • Insurance policies
  • Property or land

It may not be necessary if:

  • The deceased left less than £5000.00
  • All of his or her possessions were owned jointly with someone else (they pass on automatically)

When is a caveat used?

A caveat gives the person who requested it an opportunity to enquire if there are grounds to oppose the application for grant of probate or bring a matter to court. The examples of circumstances when a caveat could be used are as follows:

  • There are allegations as to the will in question: that it is not the last will but an earlier version, that the testator was not of sound mind when making it (sound mind is one of the requirements for a will to be valid) or that it was not appropriately signed or witnessed etc.
  • There is a dispute as to the existence of the will
  • The person applying for the grant of probate is not entitled to do so
  • There are allegations that the person applying for the grant of probate is not fit to do so
  • There is a dispute between executors as to which one of them should apply for the grant of probate (sometimes a will names more than one executor and they are all entitled to apply for probate)

How do I apply for a caveat?

To enter a caveat you or your solicitor need to write a letter to any Probate Registry (or attend it in person) and pay a £20 fee to HM Courts and Tribunals Service. The letter needs to include the following information:

  • Your details: name and address to which you wish the caveat documents to be sent to
  • The deceased’s details: their full name, last permanent address and date of death as registered on the death certificate
  • A request for the caveat to be entered with your signature

Anyone with an address in England and Wales (it can be an address for service of documents if you do not live in England and Wales) can apply to enter a caveat. It has to be entered individually and you cannot apply for it with another person.

Terms of a caveat

A caveat should be applied for as soon as possible without waiting for someone to apply for a grant of probate. A caveat is valid for 6 months from the entry date and expires if it is not extended. It can be renewed within the month it is about to expire for a further 6 months, which incurs another fee of £20.00

A caveat can be cancelled at any time by writing to the Registry.

Next steps

Agreement

If a caveat performs its function and prevents the grant of probate the person applying for probate will be given the details of the caveat and its owner. The parties should contact each other and try to resolve the dispute amongst themselves.

If no agreement

If the parties cannot agree, the person applying for a probate can issue a warning against the caveator to state his or her interest in the estate (the reason for entering a caveat). Failure to respond may result in your caveat being removed. If the caveator responds he or she enters an ’appearance’ which holds the caveat in place until the disputes are resolved by applying to start proceedings with the District Probate Registrar or the court.