When someone passes away, the exact terms of their Will can often lead to disputes, as can the way the deceased’s estate is being dealt with by the Executor or Administrator.
At a time when you are likely to already be feeling emotionally drained, these types of disagreements can be particularly difficult to handle, so it is critical to get prompt advice from sympathetic experts who understand what you are facing.
Our Staffordshire contentious probate lawyers have wide ranging expertise in all types of probate and inheritance disputes with an exceptional track record of success for our clients. We provide a friendly, practical service designed to help you protect your inheritance rights while minimising conflict and any potential for emotional fallout within families and other important relationships.
Time limits are very important when bringing claims under the Inheritance Act – in some instances you may have as little as six months to take action. It is also much easier to challenge a Will before probate has been granted and to raise a probate dispute before the assets from an estate have been distributed. Whatever your situation, it is therefore imperative to see advice without delay.
Our contentious probate services in Staffordshire
Inheritance Act Claims
Where you feel that inadequate provision has been made for you in a Will, you may be able to contest the Will under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
Your ability to make an Inheritance Act claim will depend on the circumstances, including your relationship to the deceased and the extent to which you were dependent upon them before their death.
Challenging a Will
If you are concerned that a Will being used for the purposes of probate is invalid, we can support you in contesting the Will. This can result in the Will being overturned and inheritance being determined according to a previous Will or the rules of intestacy.
There can be various reasons for challenging a Will, including concerns as to the mental capacity of the person who made the Will or over any undue influence upon them at the time the Will was made. It could also be that you believe there is a more recent version of the Will that should be used instead.
Disputed administration of estates claims
Where you feel that the person or people responsible for administering the deceased’s estate are not properly carrying out their duties, we can help you take action. This could involve requiring the Executor or Administrator to provide evidence to justify their behaviour or ultimately result in the person handling probate being replaced.
Reasons for challenging the way probate is being carried out include where you are concerned that assets are not being correctly distributed or that money is being spent inappropriately from the estate.
Disputes over the interpretation of Wills and trust documents
Even where a valid Will exists, there can be disagreement over exactly what the terms of the Will mean. If the Will includes provision for creation of a trust, this can also lead to conflict over the details of associated trust documents.
We can offer our expertise to review the contents of a Will or trust documents and help clear up any confusion, as well as facilitating negotiation between the various parties involved or court action if required to resolve the situation.
Disputes between Executors or trustees
You may need to take legal action if you have concerns over the service provided by professional advisers, particularly in relation to the preparation of wills and dealing with the distribution of estates, trusts, calculation and payment of taxes, etc.
We can assist you with making a professional negligence claim against a solicitor, accountant or any other professional involved in the creation of a Will or carrying out probate, helping to ensure that you are properly compensated for any loss suffered as a result.
Contentious probate FAQs
Can you stop probate?
You can prevent probate from being granted by ‘entering a caveat’ with any Probate Registry. This involves filling out a form and posting this to a Probate Registry or delivering it in person. You cannot enter a caveat over online, by email or over the phone and it is normal to have solicitor handle this for you to ensure the form is filled out correctly and the caveat is entered effectively.
What are the grounds for contesting a Will?
You can challenge a Will’s validity if you believe one of the following applies:
- The person who created the Will (the ‘testator’) lacked the mental capacity to make informed decisions about the contents and consequences of their Will
- The testator did not have proper knowledge and approval of the Will (i.e. someone else created it and did not properly inform the deceased of the contents)
- The testator was under undue influence when creating the Will (i.e. they were pressured to favour certain people)
- The Will was not executed properly (e.g. it was not signed in the presence of appropriate witnesses)
- The Will is forged or otherwise fraudulent
If the Will is valid, you may still be able to contest it by making an Inheritance Act claim. This will usually only be an option if you were a dependant of the deceased and the Will does not make ‘reasonable provision’ for you.
Who can make an Inheritance Act claim?
People who may have grounds for an Inheritance Act claim are dependants of the deceased, including:
- Their spouse or civil partner
- A co-habiting partner
- A child who is still in education
What is “reasonable provision” in a Will?
This will depend on the circumstances, but might include covering education costs for a child or providing for the care of someone with special needs. In general, the ‘reasonable provision’ will only cover costs the deceased would normally have covered or been expected to cover during their lifetime.
What are the grounds for contesting probate?
Probate challenges will usually be based on concerns about the conduct of the Executor or Administrator. This might include situations such as where:
- The Executor/Administrator appears to be spending money from the estate in inappropriate ways
- There are excessive delays between grant of probate and bequests being distributed
- The Executor/Administrator has failed to produce proper accounts
Can a Will be overturned after probate?
Yes, although it will depend on the ground for contesting the Will and it is important to realise that it is usually much simpler to contest a Will before probate has been granted or the bequests have been distributed.
If you wish to challenge a Will with an Inheritance Act claim, you will normally need to do so within 6 months of probate being granted.
If you believe the Will used is fraudulent, there is no time limit to bring a claim.
Can an Executor contest a Will?
An Executor cannot contest a Will as this creates a conflict of interest. If you have been named as the Executor of a Will that you wish to contest, you will need to formally renounce the role. This should be done before you have started taking any actions to deal with the estate.
Why choose Pickering & Butters’ contentious probate solicitors?
Our specialist probate lawyers have decades of experience supporting individuals and families in all types of probate disputes, helping to find positive ways forwards that protect our clients’ interests.
We have strong expertise in both out-of-court settlements and securing results through court proceedings, having achieved favourable outcomes under highly challenging circumstances for a wide range of clients over the years.
Pickering & Butters is Lexcel accredited by the Law Society, recognising our high standards of practice management and client care. We are independently regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), providing assurance that we continually meet the highest legal and professional standards.
Get in touch with our contentious probate solicitors in Stafford and Rugeley
Need help raising a concern over how probate is being handled for a loved ones estate? Or looking for expert legal advice on responding to a probate dispute?