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Contentious Probate Solicitors
Worried about the validity of a Will?
Concerned about an executor?
Disappointed with the contents of a Will and want to contest it?
Contested probate cases have been on the increase recently and with the law in this area being complex and often unclear, specialist legal representation is essential for a positive outcome.
Here at HCB Solicitors we have decades of experience and expertise in probate litigation, estate administration, trusts, property and family law across our network of 24 law firms nationwide. This allows us to offer the strongest possible support and representation to those making or defending a claim against a Will or probate.
Our contentious probate solicitors regularly handle a wide range of inheritance dispute cases, from claims under the Inheritance Act to executor fraud, undue influence and negligently drafted or lost wills.
We understand the pressure and anxiety involved in dealing with contested probate and that family relationships are often at stake. For this reason we place equal importance on dealing with the personal side of inheritance disputes as the legal side. We’ll often suggest mediation as a route to an amicable conclusion, which can allow you to achieve a positive compromise without unnecessary conflict.
We offer a fixed-fee confidential consultation so we can assess whether you have a case and discuss your options. Please bear in mind there is a six-month time limit for making an estate claim, so it is essential not to delay.
Speak to one of our expert contentious probate solicitors now by contacting your local HCB office or using the contact form below for a swift response.
How our contested probate solicitors can help you
Whether you need to pursue a claim, or defend one being made against you, HCB’s highly experienced probate lawyers can help with all aspects of contested probate.
Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 Claims
If you feel a Will has not sufficiently provided for you financially, we may be able to make a claim for you under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (‘the Inheritance Act’).
Whilst any person may dispose of their assets as they see fit, this Act is in place to protect those who are financially dependent on the deceased. Once we’ve ascertained whether you have a valid claim, we’ll guide you through every step of making a claim, keeping the process as simple and stress-free as possible.
In the past, we’ve successfully recovered large sums for a host of clients who were not adequately provided for in a Will. We can quickly assess whether you are likely to be able to make a successful claim under the Inheritance Act, or help you explore other options as appropriate.
Will Disputes: Fraud; Undue Influence; Lack of Mental Capacity
There are various reasons why you might believe a Will is invalid, including:
- The testator lacked mental capacity at the time of signing the Will
- The Will was made under duress
- The Will was not properly witnessed
- The Will has been misinterpreted
- You believe there is a more recent version of the Will
If you believe a Will is invalid, we will take the appropriate steps to help you compile the necessary evidence to support your claim. Getting sufficient evidence is absolutely vital and we can guide you as to what you need to create a strong case.
In cases of fraud, for example where a testator has been impersonated or a will forged, we will work closely with the relevant authorities, supporting their enquiries and working towards a just and timely outcome.
Where we believe there is sufficient evidence to prove a Will is invalid or fraudulent, we will attempt to achieve a fast resolution through negotiation if possible, or represent you in court where necessary to achieve a fair outcome.
Sometimes disputes can arise between executors, perhaps where one might feel another is not acting in everyone’s best interests or is attempting to defraud the beneficiaries of an estate. There are also cases of executors refusing to allow beneficiaries to see the Will, which can lead people to feel the executor is not being honest about the Will’s contents.
Whether you are an executor or beneficiary of a Will, if you are unhappy with the behaviour of one of the executors, we can act on your behalf to rectify the situation. In many cases, these issues can be resolved quickly with negotiation or mediation, but if necessary we can take court action for you to protect your interests.
Professional Negligence: Will Drafting & Estate Administration Errors
If it becomes clear that the correct procedures have not been followed by a solicitor when drafting a Will, or it is evident that a professional has made errors when administering an estate, you may be able to make a professional negligence claim.
If you are acting as an executor and you have found out that a Will is invalid through no fault of the testator, or that an estate has not been administered correctly, you may be able to make a claim for financial damages. Our professional negligence specialists can advise you on the strength of your claim and how best to proceed, allowing you to swiftly achieve a fair outcome.
Defending against a contentious probate claim
If you are the executor or beneficiary of an estate and someone makes a claim contesting the Will, or otherwise challenging probate, we can defend you. Our highly experienced contested probate solicitors have a deep understanding of the subject, so know when a claim has a realistic chance of success and can advise you on the most sensible court of action.
In many cases, it can be advisable to settle the matter through negotiation or mediation, allowing the issue to be resolved quickly at minimal expense. However, where it is necessary to fight a claim in court, we will help you put together the strongest possible defence and represent you in court, to help you achieve the right result.
Inheritance dispute resolution
When there is a dispute over a Will, probate or anything else related to an inheritance, we know that our clients value our ability to find a fast, cost-effective resolution with the minimum of stress for everyone involved.
In our experience, most inheritance disputes can be sorted out without the need for court action by using negotiation and mediation. These non-confrontational dispute resolution methods are generally better for everyone involved as they allow you to keep control of the process, rather than putting the time-scale and outcome into the hands of a court. It can also help to prevent inheritance disputes from becoming increasingly acrimonious.
Mediation involves both parties involved in the dispute meeting with a trained, neutral mediator to discuss the points of contention. The mediator will then encourage both parties to work towards a mutually acceptable solution that allows the matter to be resolved and everyone to move on.
Negotiation can be carried out by both parties’ solicitors, either over the phone, in writing or in person, or, alternatively, by using a process known as ‘collaborative law’. This requires both parties to sit down, each supported by their own solicitor trained in collaborative law, to negotiate a settlement. This can allow for a fast resolution, while also giving each party the reassurance of having a legal expert at their side to support them throughout.
For help with any aspect of contentious probate, please contact your local HCB office or using the contact form below and we will get back to you promptly.
Frequently Asked Questions about contentious probate
Who can contest a Will?
There are no hard and fast rules about who can contest a Will, but generally to have a chance of a successful challenge you will need to be:
- A spouse, civil partner or child of the deceased
- A partner who lived with the deceased at the time of their death and for at least two years immediately before this
- Someone who was financially dependent on the deceased
- An existing beneficiary of the Will or of an earlier Will created by the deceased
- Someone owed money by the deceased
- Someone promised something by the deceased
How do you contest a Will?
If you wish to challenge a Will, it is advisable to do so at the earliest opportunity. If probate has not yet been granted, we can lodge a caveat on your behalf, preventing probate from being granted without you being notified.
In many cases, disputes over a Will can be resolved by negotiation or mediation, allowing the various parties involved to agree a mutually acceptable resolution. However, where this is not possible it may be necessary to take the matter to court and allow a judge to decide the outcome.
What grounds are there for contesting a Will?
There are various potential grounds for challenging a Will. In general you will need to prove at least one of the following:
- There were mistakes in the way the Will was prepared, meaning it is not valid
- The Will is a forgery or otherwise fraudulent
- The deceased did not have ‘testamentary capacity’ when making the will i.e. their mental faculties were impaired, for example due to dementia
- The deceased did not know or approve of the contents of the Will
- The Will was created under ‘undue influence’ from a third party
- The Will is unclear or ambiguous
- You are a spouse, child or dependant of the deceased and the Will does not make ‘reasonable provision’ for you
What does ‘reasonable provision’ mean for a Will?
Under the Inheritance Act 1975, if you have been cut out of a Will or are unhappy with the amount of your inheritance, you may be able to claim for ‘reasonable financial provision’. This means that you may be able to receive an amount considered reasonable for your maintenance. Exactly what is considered reasonable will be for a judge to decide and can vary considerable.
Is there a time limit to contest a Will?
If contesting a Will under the Inheritance Act, you will normally have 6 months from the date when probate is granted to submit a claim. The time limit to challenge a Will depends on the exact circumstances and a court can overrule the time limits in exceptional circumstances. There is no time limit for challenging a Will on the basis of fraud.
How do you find out if you are a beneficiary of a Will?
If you are the beneficiary of a Will, the executor is responsible for contacting you and arranging distribution of your inheritance. You do not have the automatic right to see a copy of the Will, although you can request this from the executor if you wish.
How can you get a copy of a Will?
Once probate has been granted, all debts and taxes have been paid and the deceased’s estate distributed to the beneficiaries, the Will becomes a public document. You can therefore request a copy from the Probate Registry for a fee.
What happens if someone dies without leaving a Will?
If someone dies without leaving a Will, this is known as ‘dying intestate’. There are strict rules about who can inherit in such circumstances and this will depend on what part of the UK the deceased lived in, whether they have a living spouse, civil partner or children and how much their estate was worth.
Who inherits if there is no Will?
Exactly who inherits is completely dependent on the circumstances, although there are only a limited number of people who can inherit.
For example, if the deceased lived in England and Wales, has a living spouse or civil partner and their estate was worth £250,000 or less, the entire estate goes to the spouse of civil partner.
If the estate is worth more than £250,000 and the deceased has living children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren, the spouse or civil partner will keep all assets, including property up to £250,000, all personal possessions and 50% of any rest of the estate over the £250,000 threshold.
The remainder of the estate will be split between the deceased’s children. If a child of the deceased has also passed away, their share can pass to their children or grandchildren, or be shared amongst their siblings depending on the situation.
In general, the only people who can inherit if there is no Will are (in order of priority) the deceased’s:
- Spouse or civil partner
- Brothers or sisters
- Half brothers and half-sisters
- Aunts or uncles
- Half-aunts and half-uncles
If the deceased has no living relatives of the types listed above, the entire estate will go to the Crown. If the deceased had no qualifying relatives, you may be able to apply for a grant from the estate depending on the circumstances.
Who can apply for probate if someone dies without leaving a Will?
If someone dies intestate, their next of kin (e.g. spouse, civil partner or child) can normally apply to be the administrator of the estate, who carries out an equivalent role to an executor for an estate where there is a Will. You can become the administrator by applying for a grant of representation, which most people normally get a solicitor to do on their behalf.
Why our contested probate solicitors are the right choice for you
Our probate solicitors have extensive experience in handling all types of legal issues and disputes related to Will, probate and estate administration. We have particular experience in the area of contentious probate, meaning we can quickly give you a realistic assessment of your chances of achieving a successful outcome.
One of the key strengths of HCB is that our network of 24 law firms nationally means we have a wide range of experience to draw on for your case, while still being able to offer a personal, local service. This means you will have a single point of contact available and responsive to your needs, while also having the benefit of dozens of highly experienced legal professionals able to share their expertise when needed. This means whatever your circumstances we almost certainly have someone on the team who has dealt with a similar situation before.
Our experience with contested Wills and probate allows us to quickly identify the best approach to help you achieve a positive resolution. We can support you through negotiation and court action, if necessary, so you can get a fair result. We will take the time to understand your concerns then communicate your options to you in plain English. That way you can have complete confidence in the choices you make.
We will make our fees clear from the outset and keep our prices fair, so pursuing or defending a probate claim remains affordable. You can get in touch with us by phone, email and in person, as well as by post or fax if you prefer. We offer flexible appointments to suit you and will be happy to visit you at home or at work if that is more convenient. Appointments can be arranged for outside normal working hours if required.
Get help with contentious probate today
Whether you need to contest a Will or defend against a claim brought by someone else, our contested probate solicitors can help. Get in touch now by contacting your local HCB office or using the contact form below for a swift response.
Technical and approachable and very good at breaking down a problem into its constituent parts and dealing with my fathers estate
Whether pursuing or defending a contested probate case of any nature, HCB’s specialists are here to help. Get in touch today to arrange your appointment with a member of our friendly, sympathetic specialist contested probate team.