Contesting a Will
When someone dies, it is not uncommon for other family members to be disappointed with the contents of their Will. It may be that someone believes the deceased did not make reasonable financial provision (if any) for their needs and wants to make a claim under The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 or they may believe the Will is not valid for a variety of reasons.
When such a situation arises, we understand that it can be very difficult, with the potential to lead to a bitterly fought dispute between the various parties involved. However, such an outcome is not inevitable and can often be avoided if the parties seek expert legal support at the earliest opportunity.
At IBB Law, we have exceptional specialist expertise in dealing with contested Wills, both for those looking to challenge a Will and those needing to defend such challenges. Our contentious Wills and probate solicitors have particular experience dealing with high value estates, including those involving complex issues, such as foreign assets.
We will work with you to find an amicable outcome wherever possible, using methods such as constructive negotiation, joint settlement meetings and mediation. In many cases, a voluntary agreement can be reached to resolve Will disputes, saving everyone involved time, money and stress. Whilst we may seek to reach a compromise on the claim we will not compromise on the standard of service.
Should court proceedings be required, our team can advise you on the likely outcomes and the likely costs involved. We can then provide expert representation, giving you the best chance of securing the outcome you seek.
Our expertise with contested Wills
IBB Law has been assisting a wide range of clients with contested Wills for many years. We have earned a reputation for 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 specialists, Amanda Melton and Paul Grimwood, are both longstanding members 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 contested Wills
Challenging the validity of a Will
We can assist with contesting the validity of a Will on a number of grounds, including:
- Lack of mental (otherwise known as testamentary) capacity e.g. if the deceased was suffering from some disorder of the mind such as dementia at the time the Will was created
- Lack of valid execution e.g. the Will was not signed by the Will maker in the presence of two witnesses
- Lack of proper knowledge and approval e.g. if someone else created the Will on the deceased’s behalf and the deceased was not fully aware of the Will’s contents
- Undue influence e.g. the deceased was pressured into favouring certain parties to the detriment of others when making the Will including what is known as ‘fraudulent calumny’
- Fraud/Forgery e.g. if the deceased’s signature has been forged
If you believe a 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 become relevant. If there is no earlier Will, then the estate will be distributed according to the statutory rules on intestacy.
Making an Inheritance Act claim if you are unhappy with the contents of a Will
If you believe you have not been properly provided for in a Will, you may be eligible to make a claim against the deceased’s estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
This can allow you to claim ‘reasonable financial provision’ from the estate, which means sufficient money and/or other assets to meet your reasonable needs, as determined by the court.
There are strict rules around who is entitled to claim and lots of caselaw on what ‘reasonable financial provision’ might amount to. You should therefore seek expert advice as soon as possible from an acknowledged specialist lawyer like those at IBB.
Our contentious probate solicitors can advise you on whether you may be eligible to make an Inheritance Act claim and guide you through the process of doing so.
There is generally a strict time limit to make such a claim of 6 months from the grant of representation (probate if there is a Will or letters of administration if there is no Will), so it is important not to delay. In certain limited circumstances, the court can, if it considers it appropriate, allow proceedings to be issued ‘out of time’.
Defending a contested Will
If you are the executor of an estate or a beneficiary of a Will and the Will has been challenged, we can advise you on what you need to do.
We will provide an honest assessment of the merits of the claim and the likelihood of success in defending the court action. We can also advise you on whether we believe trying to negotiate a settlement of the claim may be in the best interests of the estate and the beneficiaries.
Whatever route you choose to go down, our contentious probate solicitors can support you every step of the way at what can often be a very difficult time following the death of a loved one. If you are a beneficiary we can advise and represent you during negotiations with the claimant and represent you in court action where required.
At all times, we will be by your side to provide sensible, realistic strategic advice to make sure you can achieve the right outcome for your circumstances.
How we help to remove conflict from Will disputes
Most people want to resolve a contested Will dispute as quickly and cost-effectively as possible while keeping conflict to a minimum. We understand this, so will aim to deal with your dispute without the need for court proceedings wherever possible.
We have proven expertise in using alternative dispute resolution for Will disputes, meaning we can usually help clients to achieve an amicable outcome, even under highly challenging, emotionally charged circumstances.
Using mediation for disputed Wills
Mediation is a very effective way to avoid going to trial by trying to agree a reasonable outcome for a contested Will dispute. The various parties involved in the dispute will attend a meeting (which can potentially be online) with their legal representatives and an independent mediator. They will then discuss the issues involved and try to work towards an amicable agreement to resolve the dispute.
The mediator’s job is to act as a neutral third-party, keeping the discussion productive and defusing any potential for unnecessary conflict. Any agreement reached will be recorded in a written settlement agreement or, if court proceedings, have been issued a draft ‘Tomlin Order’.
Mediation is one of the most popular choices for resolving Will disputes as it can allow you to achieve a positive outcome faster and cheaper, while helping to preserve relationships between the parties involved. Since it is entirely confidential it can also avoid potentially unwanted publicity.
One of our partners, Paul Grimwood, is a highly experienced mediator specialising in particular in contentious Wills, trust and probate cases.
Taking a Will dispute to court
If a Will dispute cannot be resolved amicably, we can guide you through applying to the relevant court for a decision. Our contentious probate lawyers have extensive experience of pursuing and defending disputed Will claims in court, so can ensure you have the best possible representation at all times.
We understand that many people find this process stressful and intimidating, but by clearly explaining what to expect and providing close personal support at every stage, we can keep the stress to a minimum.
Time limits for disputing a Will
The time limits for contesting a Will depend on the precise circumstances and the reasons for the challenge. However, it is generally easier to challenge a Will before probate has been granted and in particular before the deceased’s estate has been distributed.
Most other claims must be brought within 12 years of the date of death. However, there is no time limit to contest a Will on the grounds of fraud.
If you wish to make an Inheritance Act claim, you will normally need to do so within 6 months of the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration although in certain limited circumstances this deadline can be extended.
The costs of contesting a Will
The costs involved with resolving a contested Will dispute will depend entirely on the circumstances. This includes the complexity of the issues, the number of parties, whether expert evidence is needed and how willing the parties involved are to settle their differences ‘out of court’.
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 the types of expenses that may be incurred as part of the process of resolving a probate claim.
For more information on the costs associated with contesting a Will and other contentious probate matters, please get in touch.
Get tailored advice for dealing with a contested Will
The information given here is intended for general information purposes only and should not be taken as specific legal advice.
To help us give you the most relevant information, please complete our Contested Will form and email it to us with your enquiry.