Written by Zeen Al-Atroshi

The caveat

A caveat is a written notice given by someone (the caveator) to show that a grant of representation for someone’s estate should not be issued. In essence, it places a ‘block’ on any application for a grant.  

There are a number of reasons why a person may legitimately enter a caveat, however, the most common reasons are that the caveator doubts the validity of the Will someone is trying to ‘prove’ as their last Will or objects to that person applying for a grant (for example, because there are doubts they can administer the estate properly). A caveat remains ‘in place’ for six months from the date of entry and may be renewed every six months until it is removed.

After a caveat has been entered – The ‘Warning’

A person who disagrees with the placing of a caveat may challenge the caveator by issuing a warning to them.

The warning is written notice to the caveator that they have 14 days to respond to the warning.

If the caveator does nothing within these 14 days, the person applying for the grant can file a witness statement with the Probate Registry confirming this and asking for the Probate Registry to remove the caveat and allow the application to proceed.

The steps after a warning has been issued

The grounds on which the caveat was registered will determine what steps the caveator must then take.

For example, if the caveator doubts the validity of the Will being submitted to the Probate Registry, they can enter an ‘appearance’ which then has the effect of making the caveat permanent. The permanent caveat (appearance) will then only be able to be removed with the written consent of the caveator and the person who applied for the grant or a court order.

If the caveat was entered because the caveator doubts the person applying for the grant will administer the estate properly, they would need to issue a summons. This is an application for the Probate Registry to list a hearing where the caveator and person applying for the grant will make submissions about who should administer the estate, where a District Registrar will then determine who should administer the estate (it is often ordered that an independent professional administrator should ‘take over’).

Cost implications

It is important to note that once action is taken after a warning is issued, such as an appearance is entered or summons issued, both ‘sides’ (i.e. the caveator and the person issuing the warning) could be liable for the other side’s costs.

For example, if an appearance is entered, and an application is made with the court for the appearance to be removed, the court will consider whether that application is justified and if the caveat and appearance were legitimately entered. If the court ‘sides’ with one side, it could determine the ‘loser’ should pay costs of the ‘winner’ – which could be significant.

It is therefore important to be sure that if you are considering entering caveat or issuing a warning, that you are on solid ground.

If you have any queries about the entering of a caveat – regardless of which side of the fence you are on at this stage – please do not hesitate to make contact with us, where one of our contested estates specialists will have an initial, no cost, consultation with you to help provide you with peace of mind.