In this brief guide we look at Caveats, Warnings and Appearances in inheritance disputes
A caveat is a procedure that is used to prevent a grant of probate from being issued in an estate. A caveat can be issued without giving notice to the executors or beneficiaries.
A caveat is a notice entered at the Probate Registry which prevents anyone other than the person who entered the caveat obtaining a Grant of Probate.
It is a useful tool to use when you are investigating a challenge to a will or dealing with a probate dispute as it can provide you with time to investigate without the estate being administered and the assets distributed. A caveat lasts for six months, but can be renewed if you need it to last beyond that.
When can a caveat be used?
A caveat will only have effect if it is entered before a Grant of Probate has been issued. If you are considering a will challenge you should therefore ensure you do not delay in entering a caveat. There are several types of claim where a caveat can be used. These include:-
1. Challenges to the validity of a will;
2. Executor disputes;
3. Investigations into misappropriation of estate funds; and
4. Where there are concerns that the estate may be distributed incorrectly.
It is generally inappropriate to enter a caveat when you are bringing a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependant’s) Act 1975. In those circumstances it would be more appropriate to enter a standing search at the Leeds District Probate Registry.
Please note that penalties can be imposed if a caveat is used inappropriately, so advice from an experienced lawyer is recommended.
How to enter a caveat
You can instruct a solicitor to enter a caveat on your behalf or you can enter a caveat yourself.
You can enter a caveat by completing form PA8A, which is available from your local Probate Registry, or by sending a letter to the Probate Registry along with a cheque for the fee.
Alternatively, you can visit your local Probate Registry and apply in person. You will need to provide details about the person who has passed away (such as their full name, address and date of death) as shown on their death certificate as well as your own name and address.
It is important to be aware that if there are any discrepancies between the information you provide and the information on the death certificate the caveat is likely to be ineffective. It is therefore vitally important to make sure that the details contained in the application are 100% accurate.
If you are considering entering a caveat it will usually be because you are exploring a probate challenge.
Probate claims can be very complex, so it is usually advisable to obtain expert legal advice at an early stage. You may therefore prefer to instruct solicitors to advise you on your options and to enter the caveat on your behalf. By taking specialist legal advice you will also avoid the risk of being penalised for entering a caveat inappropriately.
How can we help
If you are uncertain about how to enter a caveat, are worried about not doing it properly or you are simply uncertain whether it is the right thing to do, then we are here to help.
We can assess whether entering a caveat is the best way of protecting your legal position. While there are plenty of circumstances where a caveat would be advisable, there are situations when it would not be appropriate. If you enter a caveat when it was inappropriate the executors of the estate may take steps to have it removed and, if you oppose this, you could find yourself in litigation. It is therefore advisable to obtain specialist legal advice at the outset of your investigations to help you make informed decisions about the options available to you.
Currently a fee of £20 is payable when a caveat is taken out.
A caveat can be entered by anyone, but it cannot be entered jointly with another person.
Once entered, a caveat can be withdrawn at any time. The caveator should write to the Probate Registry to request withdrawal and return the acknowledgement letter that the Probate Registry issued when the caveat was taken out.
If a caveat has been issued by someone else in an estate you are dealing with you can have it removed so that a grant of probate can be obtained by issuing a warning.
A warning can be issued by completing a Probate Registry form. The person warning must state their interest in the estate.
The warning gives the caveator just 14 days to respond.
If no response is made then the person warning can file an affidavit in the Probate Registry which will cause the caveat to cease to have effect.
If you have entered a caveat and you later receive a warning then you must act quickly if you want the caveat to remain in force.
Upon receiving a warning the caveator has just 14 days to enter an appearance before the person who entered the warning can apply to the Probate Registry for the caveat to be removed.
Once an appearance is entered the caveat will remain in force indefinitely until the inheritance dispute is resolved.
A caveator can also apply to the court for directions.