Contentious Trusts & Probate

Losing a loved one is a devastating event in itself. So, when someone’s death leads to disagreements over matters such as inheritance, it’s easy for emotions to spill over, causing rifts in families which, if not addressed quickly and professionally, sometimes never heal.

Contentious trusts & probate is the term used to refer to disputes over the administration of a deceased person’s estate, including the validity or interpretation of a Will, inheritance, and the way the estate is being administered.

At Pickering & Butters, our specialist team has extensive experience helping individuals instigate or defend contentious trusts & probate claims efficiently and cost-effectively. We guarantee our advice will be tailored to your individual circumstances and we will help you explore all available options, so you can make an informed decision about the best way to pursue your contentious probate issue.

Our goal is to help you resolve your issues as peacefully as possible, bearing in mind that many contentious probate issues involve family members. However, we will also vigorously fight your case in order to achieve an outcome which is beneficial to you.

Get in touch with our contentious trusts & probate lawyers in Staffordshire today by calling our Stafford office on 01785 603060 or our Rugely office on 01889 803080. Alternatively, please email info@pb4law.com or fill in our enquiry form to the right of the page.

Our contentious trusts & probate services

Our contentious trusts & probate solicitors can advise you on all issues and disputes associated with Wills, the probate process, or trusts, including:

  • Challenging the validity of a Will
  • Claims for financial provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975
  • Challenges to the interpretation of a Will or trust document
  • Disputes between Trustees or Trustees and Beneficiaries
  • Disputes between Executors or Executors and Beneficiaries
  • Claims regarding the administration of an estate
  • Removing or replaying Executors or Trustees
  • Recovering debts from an estate or on behalf of an estate
  • Claims for breach of trust
  • Claims for negligence and restitution
  • Disputes about the valuation of an estate or the estate’s assets

Who can contest a Will?

In most situations, it will be a family member of the deceased who contests the Will, such as:

  • A spouse or civil partner
  • A former spouse
  • A partner who has resided with the deceased for over two years
  • A child, step-child, or adopted child
  • A dependent

If the deceased person left a Will, then family members do not automatically become entitled to receive anything from the estate. Our skilled contentious probate solicitors can efficiently advise you on the merits of your case, for example, what the chances of successfully challenging the validity of the Will are.

What are the grounds for contesting a Will?

The grounds for contesting a Will include:

  • Lack of testamentary capacity – the person making the Will did not understand its meaning or effect, understand how much money and property they own, or the consequences of making a Will (including the effect on anyone in it or anyone left out).
  • The Will was not validly executed – there are certain formalities that must be observed for a Will to be valid, including that it must be in writing and signed by the testator in the presence of at least two witnesses.
  • Undue influence – the person making the Will was coerced, unduly influenced, or under duress when making the Will.
  • Lack of knowledge – the person making the Will must be aware of the contents and approve of it. Even if the formalities of creating a valid Will are fulfilled, it will not be valid if the testator did not approve the contents.
  • Fraud and forgery – you can challenge a Will if you have grounds to believe it was forged or created as a result of fraud. For example, if someone forges another person’s signature on a Will.
  • Rectification – if you believe the Will does not reflect the deceased’s intentions (either due to a clerical error or a misunderstanding), you can apply to have the Will rectified.
  • Revocation ­– the Will was revoked because the deceased got married, made another Will, declared an intention to revoke it in writing, or physically destroyed it.
  • Financial dependents have been left out of the Will – under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, you may be able to challenge a Will if you are not named in a family member’s Will and you require financial provision.

We can help you explore the potential options for contesting a Will which are open to you, as well as preparing and handling your claim on your behalf.

Is there a time limit to contest a Will?

The time limit for contesting a Will depends on the grounds you are relying on. For example:

  • For fraud cases, there is no time limit.
  • If you are making a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, you need to do so within 6 months of probate being granted.
  • For a claim to rectify a Will, the application must be made within 6 months of probate being granted.
  • If you are a Beneficiary claiming under the estate, the time limit is 12 years from the testator’s death.

Whatever the grounds for your claim, we recommend getting in touch to discuss your case as soon as possible, particularly if probate has already been granted, to ensure we can provide you with advice and submit your claim within the relevant time limit.

Can I contest a Will after probate?

When a person dies, someone needs to administer their estate, including paying Inheritance Tax, paying off the deceased’s debts, and distributing money and property to Beneficiaries. This process is called probate, and the person (or people) tasked to deal with probate called Executors (if the deceased left a Will) or Administrators (if the deceased did not leave a Will).

In order to start the probate process, the Executors or Administers need to apply for a Grant or Probate or Letters of Administration respectively for legal permission to start administering the estate.

However, even if their application is successful, it is possible to contest a Will after probate begins, including when:

  • You are claiming the deceased lacked testamentary capacity
  • The Will was forged or otherwise created as a result of fraud
  • The Will was not validly executed
  • You want to make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975
  • You want to challenge the way the estate is being, or has been, administered or distributed (for example, the Executor has failed to distribute the correct amount of money to the Beneficiaries)
  • You want to remove or replace an Executor

For most claims, you will need to make your application within 6 months of probate being granted. However, if you want to contest a Will, we can apply to the Probate Registry for a caveat to:

  • Prevent a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration being issued for 6 months
  • Prevent the Executors or Administrators administering the Estate for 6 months

This will allow us time to contest the Will on your behalf before the estate is administered and the deceased’s money and assets distributed. We therefore recommend that you contact us as soon as possible to ensure we make the caveat application as early into the probate process as possible.

Is it hard to contest a Will?

The difficulty you will encounter when contesting a Will depends on the type of claim you want to make. For example, claims for financial provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 are very hard to succeed because the law is deliberately narrow emphasising the importance of respecting the testators’ intentions.

We can advise you on the merits of your potential claim and any difficulties you are likely to face at the matter progresses (and wherever possible we will use our expertise to mitigate these difficulties, for example, by gathering and preparing robust evidence).

Why instruct our contentious trusts and probate solicitors?

At Pickering & Butters, we specialise in providing bespoke legal services to individuals and communities across Stafford and Rugeley. We have particular expertise in wills, trusts & probate matters where we use our extensive experience and knowledge to help clients plan their future affairs and raise or defend contentious trusts and probate claims.

We pride ourselves on our dedication to putting our clients’ needs first, and we are recognised for our high standards of client care and legal practice management through the Law Society Lexcel Accreditation. We have retained this accreditation since 2004, with an independent quality assessor evaluating and reapproving our skills every year.

Pickering & Butters Solicitors is independently regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

Give our contentious trusts & probate solicitors a call today

For individually tailored legal advice and representation, call our contentious trusts & probate lawyers today. You can contact our Stafford office by calling 01785 603060 or our Rugeley office by calling 01889 803080.

Alternatively, please feel free to email us at info@pb4law.com or fill in the simple enquiry form to the right of the page.