Contentious Probate Solicitors
Dealing with the estate of someone who has passed away is not always straightforward and, unfortunately, it is not uncommon for disputes to arise. This can include where there are questions about the contents of a Will, the size or lack of an inheritance, or the way an estate is being administered.
If these disputes are not handled in the right way, they can become time-consuming, expensive and very frustrating. However, with the right legal guidance, most contentious probate disputes can be resolved smoothly and effectively, often without the need for court proceedings.
At IBB Law, we have exceptional specialist expertise in dealing with contested Wills, Inheritance Act claims, and disputes over the conduct of Executors during probate. Our contentious probate solicitors have particular experience dealing with high value estates, including those involving complex issues, such as international considerations.
Our typical clients include company directors, investors, entrepreneurs and many High Net Worth Individuals. As such, we can offer the exceptional personal legal service required to effectively deal with the pressures involved in high value contentious probate matters and achieve the best available result under even the most difficult circumstances.
We can also act as independent administrators dealing with the administration of the estate when the named Executors are unable to reach agreement and have been removed or have agreed to stand down.
Our expertise in dealing with contentious probate
We have been helping clients to deal with all types of contentious probate matters for many years, with a strong track record of achieving favourable results under even the most challenging circumstances.
Our Wills and Probate team have achieved the Law Society’s Wills & Inheritance Quality accreditation, reflecting our strong expertise in this area of law.
Our contentious probate specialist, Amanda Melton, is a member of The Association of Contentious Trust and Probate Specialists (ACTAPS).
Amanda has been recognised by the Legal 500 for her expertise in handling contentious probate disputes, in particular the way she “combines exceptional professional knowledge with strong interpersonal skills” and for her “straight-talking approach and honesty”.
How our team can help with contentious probate
Grounds for contesting probate
There are three main circumstances where you may be able to contest probate:
- Where you believe the Will does not accurately reflect the wishes of the deceased.
- Where you have concerns about how the probate process is being handled.
- Where you have failed to inherit or have not been left a sufficient inheritance.
Whether you have sufficient grounds to make a successful claim will depend on the situation, so please get in touch for specific advice tailored to your situation.
Making a contentious probate claim
Entering a caveat
If you wish to contest a Will or make an Inheritance Act claim before probate has been granted, we can help you ‘enter a caveat’ to stop the probate process. This will prevent probate being granted for six months from the date the caveat is entered. The caveat can then be renewed if you need more time to resolve the dispute.
Challenging the validity of a Will
If you believe the Will is invalid, we can apply to the relevant court to have this confirmed. Where a Will is shown to be invalid, an earlier Will can then be used. If there is no earlier Will, the estate will be distributed according to the statutory rules on intestacy.
Inheritance Act claims
Should you believe that you have not been properly provided for from the estate of someone who has passed away, you may be able to make a claim for ‘reasonable provision’ from the estate under the Inheritance Act (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
There are strict rules around who is entitled to claim and what can be considered ‘reasonable provision’ so it is important to take specialist advice when considering an Inheritance Act claim.
Taking action to have an Executor replaced
The Executor of a Will has a responsibility to act in the best interests of all beneficiaries during the probate process. If you believe the Executor is failing in this duty, you may be able to take action through the courts to have the Executor removed and replaced with an independent third party. This will often be a professional Executor, usually a solicitor.
Find out more about Executor disputes.
Contentious probate dispute resolution
Wherever appropriate, we will attempt to find an amicable solution to your dispute. This will typically involve negotiating with the Executor or using alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation. This approach is often successful for even the most contentious disputes and can allow you to achieve a positive result faster and at lower cost.
Please see below for more information on using mediation for contentious probate.
If the dispute cannot be resolved out-of-court, we will then apply to a relevant court to handle your claim and guide you through the entire process. Our contentious probate lawyers have extensive experience of pursuing claims through the courts, so can ensure you have the best possible representation at all times.
Defending a contentious probate claim
If you are the Executor of an estate or a beneficiary of a Will, we can advise you on the best way to deal with any claim against the estate. Our experience means we can provide an honest assessment of the merits of a claim and the likelihood of success in court action. You can then make an informed decision about how to respond to the claim in a way that protects your best interests and the wishes of the deceased.
We can then support you during negotiations with the claimant or represent you in court action as required, ensuring you have the appropriate legal expertise and representation to secure the best available outcome.
How we can help to remove conflict from contentious probate
Inheritance disputes between family members can quickly become heated with the potential to cause long-term damage to key relationships. Understandably, many people wish to avoid court action to resolve contentious probate matters due to the increased conflict this can bring to the situation, as well as the time and cost involved.
Fortunately, in most cases court proceedings are not needed to resolve inheritance disputes. Our contentious probate lawyers are experts in alternative dispute resolution, meaning we can usually help you to achieve a positive outcome out-of-court.
Using mediation for inheritance disputes
Mediation is often the most effective way to deal with contentious probate while minimising the conflict involved. This involves the various parties involved in the dispute attending a round table meeting with their legal representatives and an independent mediator to discuss the issues involved and try to agree an amicable solution.
The mediator acts as a neutral third-party, helping to facilitate the discussion. They ensure the discussion stays productive and are there to defuse any potential conflict. This approach usually allows inheritance disputes to be resolved faster and at lower cost, while helping to preserve positive relationships between the parties involved.
Any agreement reached through mediation will be recorded in a Memorandum of Understanding. This provides written evidence of what the parties agreed, which can be referred to if later required during subsequent proceedings.
Time limits for contentious probate claims
The time limits for challenging a Will depend on the situation and reason for the challenge, however, it is usually easier to challenge a Will before probate has been granted and in particular before the bequests have been distributed. It is worth noting that there is no time limit to contest a Will on the grounds of fraud.
If you wish to enter a caveat, you will need to do so before probate is granted. Once a caveat has been entered, you can apply to extend the caveat at any time.
If you wish to make a claim in relation to how an Executor has handled probate, you will usually need to do so within 6 years of the issue occurring.
If you are bringing an Inheritance Act claim, you will normally need to do so within 6 months of Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration being granted. If you wish to make a claim outside of this time limit, you will need to apply to the relevant court for permission to start proceedings and there is no guarantee this will be granted.
The costs of contentious probate
The cost of dealing with contentious probate matters will depend entirely on the circumstances, including how complex the issues involved are and how long it takes to resolve the dispute.
We always aim to be transparent with our pricing, so will be happy to discuss the likely costs involved at the outset. This will include a clear breakdown of our rates and any expenses that may be incurred as part of the process of resolving a probate claim.
We work as a team so are able to offer the most appropriate hourly rate for each part of the work which needs to be done and also rely upon more junior members of the team to assist with the work to ensure each aspect of the job is carried out at the correct level.
For more information on the costs associated with contentious probate matters, please get in touch.
How our contentious probate solicitors have assisted existing clients
We acted for the children of the deceased against their brother who sought to control the management of the estate. We successfully removed him and persuaded the court to appoint an independent professional administrator to progress the administration and distribution of the estate.
We acted for the executors under a complex homemade will. One of our partners was appointed under a power of attorney to obtain a grant and deal with the administration on behalf of the named executors. The estate management was complex owing to the deceased’s business being subject to a winding up petition at the date of death. Our non-contentious team deal with the administration. The contentious team have been required to bring a claim seeking interpretation of the will to ensure that the administrator can understand how the will should be interpreted and therefore guiding the administrator to properly distribute the estate in due course
We acted for a son who had been disinherited by his mother as a result of a mistaken belief that her son had stolen property from her when in fact, he was a mere trustee. We sought to challenge validity of the will on the basis the deceased had made the will whilst suffering from a delusion which affected her decision.
We acted for a client who had been gifted property by a close friend during her lifetime. The family sought to set aside the transfer to him on the basis the deceased had entered into mutual wills as a result of which she was prevented from disposing of the property in question.
We acted for a child of the deceased in relation to her late father’s estate. He died without a will but with a surviving spouse with whom the family had no contact for many years; we sought a presumption of death from the court so that the client was able to distribute the estate between herself and her siblings without fear of a claim by the spouse at some later date.
As the partner died without a will there was no entitlement at all. We successfully pursued a claim under the Inheritance Act and successfully got a settlement allowing our client to purchase a home for herself.
Common questions about contentious probate
You may be able to challenge the validity of a Will if you believe one or more of the following applies:
• The deceased lacked mental capacity at the time the Will was created e.g. they were suffering from dementia
• The Will lacks valid execution e.g. it was not signed in the presence of appropriate witnesses
• The Will was not created with the proper knowledge and approval of the deceased e.g. someone else created it on their behalf and did not correctly inform the deceased of the Will’s content
• The deceased was under ‘undue influence’ when creating the Will e.g. they were pressured to favour certain parties to the detriment of others
• The Will is fraudulent or forged
Circumstances where an Executor might be considered to be failing in their duty to the beneficiaries include:
• If the Executor is spending money from the estate inappropriately
• If there are unreasonable delays between probate being granted and bequests being distributed to the beneficiaries
• If the Executor appears not to be taking the required actions to progress the probate process
• If the Executor is unable to produce accounts when reasonably requested
If no provision or insufficient provision has been made for you from an estate, you may be able to make a claim against the estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, commonly referred to as ‘the Inheritance Act’.
An Inheritance Act claim may be an option if there is a valid Will that excludes you or does not make sufficient provision for you. It can also be an option if the deceased did not leave a valid Will and their estate is being dealt with through the rules of intestacy.
People who may have grounds to make an Inheritance Act claim include:
• The spouse or civil partner of the deceased
• Someone who was cohabiting with the deceased
• A child of the deceased who is still in education
• Anyone who was dependent upon the deceased at the date of death
To make an Inheritance act claim you need to be able to show that the deceased did not make ‘reasonable provision’ for you. What constitutes reasonable provision will depend on the circumstances, for example, if you are a child of the deceased still in education, reasonable provision might mean covering the cost of your education and living expenses.
Get tailored advice for dealing with contentious probate
The information given here is intended for general information purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice.
For specific guidance relevant to your situation, please contact our contentious probate specialist Amanda Melton by calling 01494 790047 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.