Challenge a Will – Creditor of a Beneficiary to an Estate

The Court of Appeal has recently given leave to a man to challenge his ex-mother in law’s will in the case of Randall v Randall.

Facts of the case

Colin and Hilary Randall divorced in 2006 and as part of the settlement, Mrs Randall would be able to retain £100,000 from future inheritance from her mother, any monies above this would be split 50:50 between Mr and Mrs.

When Mrs Randall’s mother died, it was discovered that Mrs Randall was left £100,000 with the remainder of her estate (approximately £150,000) being passed to Mrs Randall’s children.

Shortly afterwards, Mr Randall issued proceedings in the civil courts alleging that the will was not properly executed, and that Mrs Randall’s late mother did not intend her signature to give effect to the will.

Original decision

The case was initially heard by the High Court in 2014 and Mr Randall’s claim was dismissed on the basis that as a creditor to the estate – whilst he had the right to apply for a grant of representation – creditors cannot challenge the appointment of an executor or question the validity of the will, which followed that the creditor of a beneficiary to an estate cannot show sufficient interest to bring a contentious probate claim either.

The Appeal

However, Mr Randall appealed the decision to the Court of Appeal who allowed the appeal and overturned the original decision on a unanimous basis and held that:

justice in the general sense requires H [Mr Randall] to be able to bring his probate claim to set aside the will.

In reaching their decision – the Master of the Rolls, Lord Dyson – commented that:

if this claim did not fall within the probate jurisdiction but fell within the general jurisdiction of the court, it is obvious that H would have a sufficient interest in the subject-matter of this litigation to bring the claim. He is not a mere busybody. He has a real interest in challenging the validity of the will. In the absence of authority which requires us to hold otherwise, I conclude that he has a sufficient “interest” in the will to bring this claim.
What does this mean?

For this case the next stage in this saga would be a substantive hearing as to the validity of the will now that Mr Randall now has the authority to do so. Whether or not he will be successful in his challenge will be entirely separate to this case.

In a more general sense, this case may have far reaching implications upon contentious probate.

Beforehand, creditors believed that they were unable to challenge a will; following this case it appears that if they can prove that they have a sufficient interest in the will, they may be able to challenge the will.

If you have any questions about a contentious probate matter, please give our specialist solicitors a call on 0113 244 9931.