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What is a caveat in probate terms?

Unfortunately, there are occasions when the death of an individual can trigger family hostilities and conflict.

Particularly if a person feels they should have been a beneficiary of a Will and were either simply omitted or the assets they feel should have been left to them have been left to someone else, the probate process may become more laboured and complicated than usual.

When such a conflict exists, the caveator may request “breathing space”, effectively halting the probate process, whilst they try to determine whether or not they have valid grounds for actually contesting the Will.

Whilst the caveat remains actionable, probate cannot be granted.  It is valid for a period of six months but can be extended for a further six months if required.

During this time, it is advisable that the caveator and the person applying for probate communicate with each other and try to resolve the conflict, with the aid of a probate expert.

It must be stressed that caveats are only appropriate when a true dispute exists – if the deceased’s mental status at the time of preparing the Will is in question for example, or if the caveator considers that the person applying for probate should not be entitled to do so.  However, if it is simply a matter of seeking information, then a standing search would be more appropriate.

A caveat can cause considerable distress and ill-feeling, as well as potentially causing financial problems for the beneficiaries concerned as the probate process is delayed.  For these reasons, a caveat should only ever be sought as a last resort.

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