Inheritance, Wills, Trusts & Probate Disputes

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It’s far too easy for seemingly small issues to escalate in already stressful situations when large sums of money are involved. Family tensions and arguments over wills and estates can cause lasting damage to relationships, so they need swift, supportive legal help.

We can help you navigate to a solution, and in the majority of cases we can do this completely out of court.

Contesting a will

There may be a problem with a will that you need help with, whether someone has been left out, or funds aren’t being left in the way you expected. Perhaps you were promised to be left a certain sum of money or asset and this isn’t in the will.

It may even be that the will was forged, is invalid or contains errors. It’s your right to make a professional negligence claim if a will writer has made errors or given incorrect advice.

We can also help challenge the entitlement of the Crown in the absence of beneficiaries with the help of genealogists, making sure assets go to the right person.

All of these issues can often be solved out of court by our supportive and helpful team.

Contesting probate 

If you feel the administration of a will is not being handled correctly, you may be able to contest the probate. You may wish to challenge the executor of a will if you feel they are incorrectly collecting assets, wrongly distributing the estate or not managing outstanding debts in the right way. 

These disagreements can come about because of many reasons, whether it be family tensions, or misinterpretation of complex clauses in will. Our team will help you understand these complexities so you can be confident that your loved ones legacy is handled how they would have wished.

Inheritance Act claims 

You may have expected to be left a particular share of an estate but in fact have been left out of the will, or you have not been left what you reasonably expected. It may even be the case that there was no will at all.

You would be covered by the inheritance act if you are:

  • A civil partner or spouse, a former partner, or if you lived with the deceased for at last two years before their death 
  • A child of the deceased
  • Someone who was financially dependent on the deceased 

Our team can help you navigate the inheritance act and make sure you understand what you are entitled to if you find yourself in this ambiguous and stressful situation.

Disputes between trustees or beneficiaries

You can find yourself in an incredibly stressful situation if a trustee is negligent in their duties, or documentation is unclear regarding trustee responsibilities.

Difficulties can also arise between trustees and beneficiaries. There may be negligence issues, incorrect advice given, or complete mismanagement. It may be that an executor or trustee has acted in a way that means they should be removed completely.

Resolving these issues swiftly will ensure lasting damage is prevented, and the situation is resolved. 

Issues with deputyship and mental capacity 

The Court of Protection will make a statutory will on behalf of a vulnerable person. Unfortunately this may not always reflect the person’s wishes, and you may feel you want to challenge this.

It may be that the will should not have been made in the first place, and the person has the mental capacity to make their own will. Maybe the financial deputy in place is not acting as they should. 

We can help you challenge any of these concerns, and help you understand where you stand, so that you can ensure your loved ones assets are handled as they would have wished.

Frequently asked questions

We have answered some of the more frequently asked questions we receive around contentious probate. If you have a question that is not answered below, please contact Jason Oliver.

What is the court fee for inheritance act claims?

The fee depends on whether a claim is brought in the county court or high court but the maximum fee is £528. You may also be entitled to a fee remission based on your financial circumstances.

What is an inheritance act claim?

The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 makes provision for certain classes of people to seek ‘reasonable financial provision’ from estates. The classes of potential claimant include spouses and civil partners, former spouses and civil partners, cohabitees, children and those treated as children of the deceased. A person who was being maintained (financially) by the deceased prior to death may also be able to bring a claim.

Generally, claims are brought by those who have been excluded from inheriting under the terms of a Will or where, because there is no Will, they are not beneficiaries under the intestacy rules. Even if a Will or intestacy does make some provision for someone, this does not prevent them from bringing a claim seeking greater provision.

What level of financial provision is reasonable depends on a number of factors depending on who is making the claim but, broadly, the court considers the size of the estate and the financial resources and competing needs of the claimant and the estate’s beneficiaries.

The court can and will however take other matters into account including the conduct of the deceased, the claimant or any other person. There are numerous factors to consider in determining the strength of a claim and what, if any, provision should be made for a claimant.

Is there a time limit with Inheritance Act claims?

Yes. Claims must be brought within 6 months of the grant of probate or administration being issued. Claims can be brought after this time limit but only where the court gives permission and it does not do so lightly.

Who can claim under the Inheritance Act?

The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 makes provision for certain classes of people to seek ‘reasonable financial provision’ from estates. The classes of potential claimant include spouses and civil partners, former spouses and civil partners, cohabitees, children and those treated as children of the deceased. A person who was being maintained (financially) by the deceased prior to death may also be able to bring a claim.

Generally, claims are brought by those who have been excluded from inheriting under the terms of a Will or where, because there is no Will, they are not beneficiaries under the intestacy rules. Even if a Will or intestacy does make some provision for someone, this does not prevent them from bringing a claim seeking greater provision.

Who can dispute a Will?

To dispute the validity of a Will, a person needs to show that they have a sufficient interest to do so. This is usually that, if the Will is invalid, that person would inherit more under a previous Will or on intestacy. There can be other circumstances where a person has a sufficient interest to challenge and we are able to advise in this respect.

How do you dispute a Will?

The validity of a Will can be challenged for the following reasons:

  1. It was not properly executed – the law has strict requirements for the execution of Wills and, if these requirements have not been followed, a Will may be invalid.
  2. The Will is a forgery or a fraud – sometimes Wills are forged and this can be proved using expert evidence. Commonly, a fraud might take the form of a person lying to the deceased to convince them to exclude someone from their Will.
  3. The deceased did not have mental capacity at the time the Will was made – this is a complex area but, broadly, the deceased needs to have been able to understand what they were doing, what was in their estate and the various claims they should consider.
  4. The deceased did not know and approve of the Will’s contents – a person needs to know what is in their Will when they sign it and, if they did not, their Will might be invalid.
  5. The Will was the result of undue influence by another person. For example, if a relative or friend puts pressure on someone to change their Will, this can invalidate it in certain cases.

The first step to challenging a Will is to enter a caveat, which prevents a grant of probate or administration from issuing. It is then, ultimately up to the court to decide whether the Will is valid or not based on the available evidence.

Can you dispute a Will after probate?

Yes. A claim can be brought to revoke a grant of probate or administration on the basis that the Will is invalid.

Can probate be contested?

Yes. A claim can be brought to revoke a grant of probate or administration on the basis that the Will is invalid.

Can you contest a Will?

The validity of a Will can be challenged for the following reasons:

  1. It was not properly executed – the law has strict requirements for the execution of Wills and, if these requirements have not been followed, a Will may be invalid.
  2. The Will is a forgery or a fraud – sometimes Wills are forged and this can be proved using expert evidence. Commonly, a fraud might take the form of a person lying to the deceased to convince them to exclude someone from their Will.
  3. The deceased did not have mental capacity at the time the Will was made – this is a complex area but, broadly, the deceased needs to have been able to understand what they were doing, what was in their estate and the various claims they should consider.
  4. The deceased did not know and approve of the Will’s contents – a person needs to know what is in their Will when they sign it and, if they did not, their Will might be invalid.
  5. The Will was the result of undue influence by another person. For example, if a relative or friend puts pressure on someone to change their Will, this can invalidate it in certain cases.

The first step to challenging a Will is to enter a caveat, which prevents a grant of probate or administration from issuing. It is then, ultimately up to the court to decide whether the Will is valid or not based on the available evidence.

What are the grounds for contesting a Will?

The validity of a Will can be challenged for the following reasons:

  1. It was not properly executed – the law has strict requirements for the execution of Wills and, if these requirements have not been followed, a Will may be invalid.
  2. The Will is a forgery or a fraud – sometimes Wills are forged and this can be proved using expert evidence. Commonly, a fraud might take the form of a person lying to the deceased to convince them to exclude someone from their Will.
  3. The deceased did not have mental capacity at the time the Will was made – this is a complex area but, broadly, the deceased needs to have been able to understand what they were doing, what was in their estate and the various claims they should consider.
  4. The deceased did not know and approve of the Will’s contents – a person needs to know what is in their Will when they sign it and, if they did not, their Will might be invalid.
  5. The Will was the result of undue influence by another person. For example, if a relative or friend puts pressure on someone to change their Will, this can invalidate it in certain cases.

The first step to challenging a Will is to enter a caveat, which prevents a grant of probate or administration from issuing. It is then, ultimately up to the court to decide whether the Will is valid or not based on the available evidence.

What is the success rate of contesting a Will?

The success of a challenge to the Will depends on the evidence available. In our experience, the majority of claims are settled before trial and settlement depends on the strength of each party’s evidence and the approach taken by each side. We can help you gather evidence and advise you on the strength of a claim to challenge the validity of a Will.

How much does it cost to contest a Will?

Costs depend on how far a claim progresses. If a claim settles at an early stage, the costs are generally limited however, if a claim progresses to a trial, costs can be significant. Our aim is to provide cost-effective advice throughout the entire process. Many disputes are suitable for alternative dispute resolution, which can include negotiation and mediation, which, if successful, typically save costs compared to litigation.

Who pays to contest a Will?

Who ultimately pays the costs must either be agreed or decided by the court. As with most litigation, the general rule is that the successful party recovers their costs from the unsuccessful party so, if a challenge to a Will succeeds, claimants can usually expect to recover their costs either from the estate or from those who opposed the claim. On the other hand, if a challenge to a Will is unsuccessful, you might be ordered to pay the other party’s costs. There are multiple considerations when determining costs liability and we provide advice on these at every stage of a dispute.

How do I enter a caveat on line?

Caveats can be entered by visiting the government’s website page on stopping a probate application. It costs £3 to enter a caveat.

How we’ve helped our clients

“When a distant relative died, unexpectedly I found myself as executor of her will. It was being administered by the solicitors who had been holding the Will. Annoyingly, the Will had been badly written and contained mistakes and ambiguities. It became obvious to me that those dealing with it were incapable of resolving the situation and were wrongly pursuing pointless and expensive lines of investigation. I mentioned this to a friend who told me that while dealing with Paris Smith he had learnt that they had a man who specialises in bad wills. I approached Paris Smith and Jason Oliver said that he could help me. Jason considered all the facts and immediately stopped the administering solicitors from proceeding further. With his expertise he was able to resolve the complex issues while keeping me fully informed at all times. He guided me through Zoom meetings, dealings with barristers and High Court procedures. Best of all, the estate was finally divided as originally intended. I was very impressed with the professionalism of Jason Oliver and would recommend him to anyone requiring legal advice and guidance. ”

Gerry Burnell

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Jason Oliver
Partner – Personal Disputes and Commercial Disputes

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