Losing someone can be a distressing and emotional time. You may feel overwhelmed and not sure where to turn. Disputes over someone’s Estate are unpleasant, but sadly they do happen. They can be technically complex and often involve close family relationships. It’s important that Wills and Probate disputes are handled sensitively and that everything is done to reach the best solution for everyone involved.
Don’t be put off by concerns about costs. Our Contentious Probate Solicitors will give you free initial legal advice, along with a no obligation, free assessment of your claim. We’re really flexible when it comes to funding a claim and we often work on a No Win, No Fee basis.
These types of disputes are often complicated and time sensitive, so getting early legal advice from a Contentious Probate Solicitor can really help you to get the best possible outcome. Whether you are bringing or defending a claim, our Contentious Probate Solicitors can help you with:
- Inheritance Act Claims
- Contesting a Will
- Enforcing a promise
- Claiming an interest in a property in which you have lived or financially contributed to but do not own legally
- Probate Disputes
- Professional Negligence claims against Wills and Probate Solicitors
- Making Statutory Wills
We are successful in resolving most disputes out of Court, without the need for costly litigation and we’ve got a proven track record in resolving most disputes as quickly and cost effectively as possible.
Inheritance Act Claims
An Inheritance Act claim can be brought by different categories of people, but these claims are usually made by the surviving husband, wife, civil partner or children.
But Inheritance Act claims can also be made by partners who not married or by people who are not blood relatives of the person who died. This could be:
- Former husband or wife
- Anyone who lived with the person who died as if they were the husband, wife or civil partner for at least two years immediately before they died
- Anyone who because of a marriage or civil partnership was treated by the person who died as a child of the family
- Anyone who was being maintained, either wholly or partly, immediately before they died.
To be successful in an Inheritance Act claim, the Court must be persuaded that reasonable financial provision has not been made for you as the applicant. Once the Court has made that decision, it must then decide what provision should be made. This could be a lump sum award, periodical payments or the transfer of property.
Time Limits to Make Inheritance Act Claims
You only have six months after the Grant of Representation has been issued to make an Inheritance Act claim. Although the Court does have the power to allow claims after this time limit, they very rarely give permission.
Contesting A Will
Contesting a Will is complicated and may not be your best option. If you succeed in contesting a Will, the last valid Will applies. But if you aren’t a beneficiary in the previous Will, you still won’t inherit from the Estate.
If there is no previous valid Will, inheritance laws called the Rules of Intestacy will apply. Unless you fit into the categories listed in these rules, you won’t inherit.
These are the people listed in the Rules of Intestacy, in order of priority. Generally they must be blood relatives.
- Husband, wife or partner
- Children or Grandchildren
- Brothers and Sisters
- Uncles and Aunts
If you are not listed here, you may be better off making an Inheritance Act claim. You can talk to one of our specialist Contentious Probate Solicitors for advice.
Grounds for Contesting a Will
If it would benefit you to Contest a Will, you’ll need to decide if you have the grounds to support your claim.
A Will can be challenged on different grounds, but any challenge often involves an allegation that the person who died did not have testamentary capacity. Testamentary capacity is the legal term used to describe someone’s mental and legal ability to make or change their Will.
This has become a bigger issue because of our ageing population and an increase in dementia and Alzheimer’s.
To prove a lack of capacity, it’s sensible to:
- Investigate the circumstances around the preparation and execution of the Will. This is often done by getting evidence from the person who prepared the Will and anyone who witnessed the Will.
- Take statements from those who knew the person who died. This is often helpful in showing any cognitive decline.
- Get the medical records of the person who died is invaluable evidence. This and evidence from their doctor or expert opinion evidence from an independent medical expert.
There are often strict time limits involved in Contesting a Will. Don’t delay in getting advice from a specialist Contentious Probate Solicitor.
Enforcing a Promise
A promise made by someone before they died that they will give you an interest in their property can be enforceable, even if that promise is not in their Will.
To claim an interest in their property you’ll need to prove:
- That the person who died promised to give you an interest in a specific property
- You relied on that promise.
- You suffered detriment because you relied on the promise.
- It’s unfair of the Estate to not honour the promise made by the person who died when they were alive.
Detriment is when you are harmed or damaged by something and some examples of detriment accepted by the Court are:
- Giving up work and moving to another city
- Working for a reduced wage in a family business or foregoing other business opportunities or an alternative, lucrative career
- Running errands, collecting prescriptions, providing basic nursing care and gardening
- Agreeing to go to college and learning necessary skills
- Moving and making improvements to a property
If you were made a promise before someone died that’s not reflected in their Will, call now for free initial advice on what your next steps should be.
Probate disputes, known as Contentious Probate, happen in many different circumstances. These include:
- Concerns about whether a gift made during their lifetime is valid
- Arguments about who should manage the administration of the Estate and get the Grant of Representation
- Disagreements between the beneficiaries and the Personal Representatives (they are administrating the Estate)
- Conflict between Personal Representatives about how they should administer the Estate
- A need to correct mistakes in a Will so it says what was intended by the person who died
- Uncertainty about the correct meaning of a Will
- Disputes between the Estate and a third party
Whatever issues you’re facing in whatever role, we can help you bring the dispute to a close as quickly as possible whilst also working to get you the best possible outcome.
Get free initial advice from our experience Contentious Probate Solicitors.
Professional Negligence Claims
You should be able to rely on a professional to give you the right legal advice for Wills, Trusts and Probate, but sometimes things can go wrong and you may have a professional negligence claim.
You could have a Professional Negligence Claim if:
- A Will was not made in an acceptable time and the person died before it was properly executed
- Not advising properly about how to execute a Will
- Not properly supervising the execution of a Will
- The Will not correctly stating what was wanted by the person who made it
- Failing to advise about inheritance tax implications
- Not advising personal representatives or trustees properly
- Disputing costs charged in respect of Trust or Estate administration
If you think you have a Professional Negligence claim against a Wills, Trusts or Probate Solicitor, call one of our expert Contentious Probate Solicitors for help and advice.
If someone does not have the capacity to make a Will, we can ask the Court to make a Will on behalf of them. This is known as a Statutory Will.
Also, if you don’t like the contents of the proposed Statutory Will, we can help you to either oppose the Court approving the Will with those terms, persuade the Court to make a different Will or ask the Court to refuse to make a Will at all.
The Court will consider whether the proposed Statutory Will is in the best interests of that person.
How Much Will it Cost To Make a Claim?
The cost of a dispute will vary depending on the circumstances of case and whether or not you have to go to Court. You can settle a dispute at any time if you can all come to an agreement. Then you can then decide how to split the costs between you all.
But, if you can’t reach an agreement and the case has to go to Court, it will decide who will pay the costs.
Free Claim Assessment
We offer you a no obligation, free assessment of your claim.
We’ll set out in simple terms what we are going to do, when it will be done by and how much it will cost.
There is often a range of different price and payment options so you can choose what suits you best and reflects what is most important to you.
We often work on a No Win, No Fee basis.
Funding Your Claim
There are various ways you can cover the cost of your claim, depending on your case.
- Legal Expenses Insurance
- Conditional Fee Agreement, known as No Win, No Fee
- Payment on conclusion
- Private monthly billing
- Litigation loans and third-party funding.
We understand that funds and assets may be tied up in the disputed Estate, and we’ll be as flexible as possible to make sure that’s not another worry on your mind.
We’ll discuss the different price and payment options with you at the start and your first consultation with us is completely free, with no obligation to continue.
Frequently asked questions
- How do I get a copy of a Will?
Getting a copy of a Will can be difficult as there’s no central register of Wills and no legal requirement to register a Will.
A Will is a private document whilst the person who made it is still alive and it stays private until a Grant of Probate is issued. After that, a Will becomes a public document and anyone can apply to the Probate Registry (Court) to get a copy.
Here’s some guidance on what you can do to try and get a copy of a Will before and after a Grant of Probate has been issued:
Before a Grant is issued
You’ll need to check whether a Grant of Probate has been issued yet. You can do this by completing a free search on Gov.uk website.
Alternatively, you can set up a Standing Search with the Probate Registry. They’ll send you a copy of the Grant of Probate and the Will if it’s been issued within the last 6 months from the date of your search.
You can ask the Executor of the Will to give you a copy, but they’re not legally required to give it to you, or you can make an application to the Court for an Order that they release it.
After a Grant has been issued
You can get a copy of the Grant of Probate from the Probate Registry on Gov.uk website or if you have a Standing Search set up, the Probate Registry will send you a copy of the Grant and the Will.
- How do I contest a Will?
Contesting a Will is a specific legal process and this may not be the right option for you depending on your circumstances. You should talk to one of our specialist Contentious Probate Solicitors for legal advice as there may be a better option for you such as:
- Bringing an Inheritance Act claim
- If a promise made to you when the person who died was still alive, trying to enforce that promise.
- What should I do if I think a Will is invalid?
You need to think about whether it will benefit you to contest the Will.
When a Will is contested successfully, the Estate is distributed according to the previous Will, if there was one. But if there wasn’t a previous valid Will, the Estate is distributed using inheritance laws called the Rules of Intestacy.
If you won’t benefit from a previous Will or under the Rules of Intestacy, there’s no point in contesting the validity of the Will.
If you would benefit from challenging the Will, you need to be clear if you have the legal grounds to make a challenge.
- What are the grounds for challenging a Will?
A Will can be legally challenged on five grounds.
- Lack of testamentary capacity - Anyone making a Will must be of sound mind and understand the impact of what the Will they’re making. If they don’t they can’t legally make a Will.
- Lack of valid execution – The Will doesn’t have all the required things in it to make it valid. This could be because it’s not been signed or witnessed properly, it’s not in writing or there was an intention to make the Will official, but it wasn’t done before the deceased died.
- Lack of knowledge and approval – The person making the Will doesn’t know what’s in it, even though this is a legal requirement of making a Will.
- Undue influence – This is when pressure has been put on someone to make or change their Will.
- Fraud or forgery – A Will has been forged or someone has been cut out of a Will because of false information about a beneficiary.
One of our Contentious Probate Solicitors can help you understand which ground you can best use to contest a Will.
- How long do I have to contest a Will?
Although there’s no time limit for contesting a Will, you should get specialist legal advice soon as possible. You do need to collect in the relevant evidence otherwise documents could be lost, witnesses could die or their memories fade.
Also, the longer you leave it, the higher the chance that the administration of the Estate will be completed and the Estate will already be distributed.
- How to stop an estate being administered when I’m challenging the Will?
If you want to challenge the validity of a Will, you should enter a caveat with the Probate Registry. This will stop a Grant of Probate being issued. A caveat lasts for 6 months but you can renew it if you need to. The caveat will remain until you remove it or you are the Court orders it to be removed.
If you find out that it’s unlikely that you will make a successful challenge, you should remove the caveat.
If you don’t, the Executor/s of the Will could start legal proceedings to force the removal of the caveat. If they were successful, you may have to pay their legal costs.
Before entering a caveat, you should get specialist legal advice from an experienced Contentious Probate Solicitor.
- What if there’s no Will?
If someone dies without making a Will, the legal term for this is dying “intestate”. The Rules of Intestacy decide who can apply for Probate, known as the administrator, and who inherits from the Estate.
If you’re not a blood relative or an adopted child, you won’t inherit anything under the Rules of Intestacy but you could make a claim for a share of the Estate. This is known as an Inheritance Act Claim and is made under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
There are certain conditions you will need to meet to make an Inheritance Act claim, so call and speak to one of our Contentious Probate Solicitors for advice.
- What can I do if I’ve been left out of the Will?
You may still have the option of make an Inheritance Act Claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
You can make an Inheritance Act claim if you:
- Are a husband, wife or civil partner
- Are a former husband, wife or civil partner
- Lived with the person who died as if they were a husband, wife or civil partner for at least two years before they died
- Are a child of the person who died, no matter how young or old
- are not a biological child and you weren’t adopted but you were treated as a child of the family
- Were partly or wholly financially maintained by the person who died directly before they died
Inheritance Act Claims do have strict time limits and you only have six months from the date of the Grant of Probate to make a claim. Make sure you don’t miss your chance to make an Inheritance Act claim because you missed the time limit.
- What if I don’t inherit anything under the Rules of Intestacy?
You could potentially still make an Inheritance Act Claim. This would be using the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
You could have a valid claim if you:
- Lived with the person who died as if they were a husband, wife or civil partner for at least two years before they died
- Are a child of the person who died, no matter how young or old
- Aren’t a biological child and you weren’t adopted but you were treated as a child of the family
- Were financially maintained by the person who died, partly or wholly, before they died
You only have six months to make an Inheritance Act Claim form the date of the Grant of Letters of Administration.
- Can I claim if I was promised something but not named in the Will?
You could try to enforce a promise that was made to you by someone before they died, even if it wasn’t in their Will. You’ll need to prove 4 things. They are:
- That the person who died made you a promise
- That you relied on that promise
- You were harmed or damaged, known as detriment, because you relied on that promise
- It’s not fair to not to honour the promise made by the person who died when they were alive
Here are some of the main examples of detriment accepted by the Court:
- You gave up work and moved to another town/city
- You worked for a reduced wage in a family business, you gave up other business opportunities or an alternative, lucrative career
- You ran errands, collected prescriptions, provided basic nursing care or did gardening
- You went to college and learnt new skills
- You moved-in with the deceased and made improvements to their property
If you’re not sure whether you have a claim, call our Contentious Probate Solicitors for a free claim review.
- Do I have a claim if I financially contributed to a property but I didn’t own it?
Yes. You can either bring a claim to enforce a promise, see question 10 above for information or you can argue that there was an agreement between you and the person who died and that they held the property on trust for both of you.
You’ll need to persuade the Court that even though the person who died was the sole owner of the property, it was always intended by both of you that you owned the property jointly or in whatever proportion you say was agreed.
To decide the true intentions of you and the person who died, the Court will consider:
- Any advice or discussions which would indicate the intentions of the person who died
- The reasons why the property was only in the sole name of the person who died
- Why the property was originally bought
- Your relationship with the person who died
- Whether you have children together and therefore a responsibility to provide a home
- How the property purchase was financed originally and afterwards
- How your finances were arranged – separately, together or a bit of both
- How did you both pay for any outgoings on the property and household expenses
- Your personalities.
- Will I have to go to Court?
In most cases, you can avoid going to Court. Even if it looks likely you will need to go to Court, most cases settle before Trial through negotiation or mediation. This is often preferred to avoid the cost and risks involved of going to Court and asking a Judge to make a decision for you.
For free legal advice call our Probate Solicitors
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