Contentious probate

We are highly respected legal practitioners in the complex and sensitive area of contentious probate.

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Contentious probate

Experienced and empathetic guidance on contentious probate

Conflicts over the wills, trusts and estates of loved ones can be particularly emotional, especially where family members are involved. Early advice from a legal specialist is advisable.

Our experienced and empathetic team of probate litigation experts are highly respected practitioners in this complex and sensitive area of law and will guide and support you through the process.

We work with disappointed beneficiaries, relatives, executors and trustees in any case where there is a challenge to someone’s estate. It could be a challenge to a will or codicil, or because the will or Intestacy Rules fail to make adequate provision and there is a possible claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975.

We can also advise on applications to remove and replace executors and trustees where those in place are not progressing the administration of the estate or acting properly in administrating the estate or a trust.

In the case of a claim under the Inheritance Act, it is essential to get advice at the earliest possible opportunity as there is only a short window of opportunity in which to seek effective remedies or solutions.

The range of support we provide includes the following:

  • Acting for claimants, defendants and executors in proceedings under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975
  • Claims to challenge the validity of wills and codicils including issues of lack of testamentary capacity, want of knowledge and approval and undue influence
  • Disputes between executors and trustees and advising on applications to remove and replace executors and trustees
  • Advice on disputes in relation to enduring and lasting powers of attorney
  • Advice on applications for court approval of decisions made by trustees
  • Advising beneficiaries on their entitlement to information and accounts
  • Rectification proceedings
  • Contested deputyship applications

If you are contesting or defending a will, or considering doing so, speak to one of our contentious probate solicitors in St Albans, Harpenden or Luton as soon as possible for advice.


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FAQs

Frequently asked questions

What is contentious probate?

Contentious probate refers to a situation where there is a dispute over the validity or interpretation of a deceased person’s will or alternatively, where a will does not make provision for someone who thinks they ought to have been provided for.

How can contentious probate be resolved?

Contentious probate can be resolved through mediation, negotiation, or litigation. Mediation and negotiation involve parties working together to reach a mutually acceptable resolution, while litigation involves taking the matter to court to be decided by a judge.

How can I prevent contentious probate?

The best way to prevent contentious probate is to ensure that your will is clear, and properly executed. Work with an experienced solicitor to draft your will to ensure that instructions are properly recorded and who may also be able to ensure that proper capacity checks are undertaken and recorded. Identify anyone who maybe ‘disappointed’ and explain in your instructions why their gift is limited or why they have been excluded. Additionally, it can be helpful to communicate your intentions to your family.

Are there any alternative dispute resolution methods that could be used instead of going to court?

Negotiation and ADR such as mediation offer parties an opportunity to control the outcome of a dispute and to minimise the costs and delays to the administration of an estate.

What are the common reasons for contentious probate?

The most common reasons for contentious probate are that the last will (or the Intestacy Rules) does not make adequate, or any, provision for one or more persons who expected to receive an inheritance. The common challenges involve claims of lack of capacity, undue influence or coercion, accusations of forgery or fraud, claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975, and disagreements over the interpretation of the wording of a will.

Who can contest a will?

Generally, anyone who has a legitimate interest in the estate can contest a will. This potentially includes beneficiaries, family members, cohabitees, and other directly interested parties.

How long will the process take and what are the potential costs involved?

A probate claim will significantly delay the administration of any estate, potentially by months if not years if the dispute is litigated. The costs in such cases can be very significant indeed, particularly if issues of capacity are raised and expert evidence is required. Such costs may ultimately come out of the estate meaning there in less money to be distributed.

What happens if we are unable to reach a settlement or agreement?

If a negotiated or mediated settlement cannot be agreed then it may be necessary to litigate any claim through the court process.

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