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Losing a loved one and dealing with their estate is not only emotional, it’s also difficult. If there are problems with the way their estate is being handled, it can cause even more stress and upset.

Whether you are an executor or beneficiary, our experienced contentious probate solicitors can help;

  • Interpret the will
  • Value the assets involved
  • Deal with an executor who is or has mismanaged the estate
  • Resolve disputes between beneficiaries

What is Contentious Probate?

Contentious probate describes any dispute about the administration of a person’s estate after their death.

Types of Contentious Probate Disputes

There are many types of disputes that can arise during the execution of a will.

These are the main types:

Will Disputes

Will disputes occur when there are questions over whether a will is valid. Or, if it truly represents the wishes of the deceased.

You may have grounds to dispute a will if;

  • It was not properly signed or witnessed.
  • The deceased lacked the mental capacity to create a valid will.
  • The deceased did not have the proper knowledge and approval of the will’s contents.
  • The deceased was subject to undue influence or ‘Fraudulent Calumny’.
  • It has been forged or you suspect some other type of fraud.

Correcting Mistakes in a Will

An error in a will can make it unclear as to what it means. This can leave it open to interpretation which cause friction between beneficiaries. It can also produce a different outcome to what the deceased might have intended.

In cases like these;

  • The executors and beneficiaries may need to negotiate to resolve problems caused by ambiguous wording.
  • You might need a court to determine what the will means. This is called ‘Will construction’.
  • You may also need a court to correct a will. This is ‘Rectification’.

Inheritance Act Claims For Dependants Who Aren’t Sufficiently Provided For

Sometimes a will not make reasonable provision the dependants of the deceased. In other cases, there might not be a will.

In this case, you might be eligible to make an inheritance tax claim un the Inheritance (Provision For Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

Lifetime Transactions and Gifts

If the deceased made significant financial tractions before they died, it could raise questions around fraud. Especially if another party unduly influenced them.

These gifts or transactions (often called ‘deathbed gifts’) can potentially be challenged. Especially if;

  • They are of high value, either in themselves or relative to the total value of the estate.
  • The deceased was coerced or unduly influenced
  • They lacked the mental capacity to make such a decision

Executor Disputes

Executing a will is a serious responsibility and should be done with care and diligence.

If;

  • People dealing with an estate cannot agree on how to execute it, or
  • There are concerns of the conduct of the executor or the estate administrator

It can have a big one the beneficiaries. As such, important to solve any issues or disputes quickly.

Trust Disputes

Trusts are often complicated to administer. Especially when they involve high value assess or contain complex instructions.

If

  • Trustees cannot agree on how to administer an estate, or
  • Have concerns about how a trust is being handled

It can have a negative impact on the beneficiaries.

 

Making a Professional Negligence Claim Against the Will Writer

The standards of will writing services vary. Sometimes, even a professionally written will not stand up to scrutiny.

If a will;

  • Contains mistakes
  • Is not clear in its instructions
  • Does not reflect the deceased true wishes, or
  • Is invalid

You might need to go to court for interpretation or rectification.

Court costs can have a negative impact on the value of the estate. If this is the case, you may have grounds to make a professional negligence claim against the will writer.

 

Why Choose Rotheras?

Our team includes members of the Association of Contentious Trust and Probate litigation Specialists (ACTAPS).

We have vast experience in helping clients helping clients with all kinds of probate disputes.

Contact our Wills and Probate Team

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Jayne Smith

“We’re upfront about costs – so there’s no hidden surprises”

Jayne Smith
Head of Wills and Probate

FAQs

Can I Get a Copy of the Will?

While a person is alive, their will is confidential and only they can give you a copy.

When that person dies, their personal representative(s) or executor acts on their behalf. It is for them to decide whether to provide you with a copy of the will or not.

Once probate has been granted, the will becomes a public document. Anyone can order a copy from the Probate Registry.

Can I Prevent a Grant of Probate From Being Issued?

Yes.

You can prevent;

  1. A grant of probate, or
  2. A grant of administration

By lodging a ‘Caveat’ with the Probate Registry.

What is a Caveat?

A caveat prevents the issuing of a grant of probate or grant of administration.

A caveat is valid for six months. You should use this time to resolve any issues or disputes.

If you are unable to reach a resolution, you can renew a caveat on expiry.

How Can I Find Out if a Grant of Probate Has Been Issued?

You can find out if a grant of probate has been issued by searching the Probate Registry.

What Can I Do if I Think There's a More Recent Will Than the One Being Admitted to Probate?

If you think there is a more recent copy of a will that has been submitted to probate, you should lodge a caveat with the Probate Registry as soon as possible. This will stop the probate being granted for an out of date or invalid will.

Will I Have to Go to Court?

Most disputes can be settled with negotiation and discussion without the need for court intervention. However, sometimes this is not possible, so court becomes the only option.

Rest assured, if your dispute does go to court, we will be there to advise and support you through the entire process.

How Much Does it Cost to Contest a Will?

This depends on the case; how complex it is and if it goes to court or not.

If all parties can come to an agreement, they can settle a dispute at any time and divide the costs between them.

If a dispute cannot be resolved, and it must go to court,

the court will decide how the costs are to be paid.

What If There Is No Will?

If a loved one dies without leaving a will, executing their estate is more complicated.

The deceased might have had verbal agreements with family and/or friends but never created a formal will. For example, if they promised to leave their house to a family member.

Without a will, there is no guarantee their wishes will be carried out.

We have expertise and experience to help you if this is the case.

If you’re happy then we’re happy too.

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"Impressive group with expertise in both matrimonial finance cases and children matters. A strong childcare team handles cases involving physical and emotional abuse, as well as fatalities. Well versed in matters with international aspects, Hague Convention cases, as well as adoption and guardianship issues.

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Anton Balkitis frequently represents the operators of both goods and passenger vehicles in court proceedings. Clients remark: "He has a commercial understanding of real-life issues and will always provide a balanced view

Chambers UK, 2019

Posted 27/01/2020

Impressive group with expertise in both matrimonial finance cases and children matters. A strong childcare team handles cases involving physical and emotional abuse, as well as fatalities. Well versed in matters with international aspects, Hague Convention cases, as well as adoption and guardianship issues.

Chambers UK, 2018

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The team at Rotheras, and Mr Powell in particular, have provided us with an outstanding service. We are extremely grateful for the help and support they gave us in dealing with issues relating to our transport operations and our goods vehicle operators licence. Mr Powell was professional, knowledgable, efficient and effective. He quickly understood our business and the problem we had. He responded with sensible advice and acted quickly on our behalf to resolve the matter. I cannot thank him enough for his help and I would recommend Mr Powell, and the Rotheras team, without hesitation. I am extremely grateful for the help they gave us.

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We are in the middle of launching our own packaging agency and contacted Rotheras for some professional legal advice with regards to contracts. After an initial call with Billy, he made it clear what we needed and asked plenty of questions to understand what it was we needed. He was very responsive to our questions, whether it be over the phone or via emails and made the process really simple. We had little experience in this area so it was fantastic to work with Billy, who explained everything concisely. We were also really pleased with the quick turnaround and great value offered. Would thoroughly recommend working with Rotheras.

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Billy understood our requirement from the get go and really nailed down on what we needed in our commercial agency agreement. Billy kept us informed every step of the way and showed great professionalism. We would recommend his services to any start-up business who is in need of legal advice and guidance with commercial contracts.

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I was extremely pleased with the service that Kerry provided in order to sell my mothers house. Good, prompt communication and all questions dealt with or answered as requested. Consequently I would recommend yours services to others.

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Anton has substantial experience acting for commercial goods hauliers and other transport operators. He advises on a range of contentious issues including operator licence, maintenance and tachograph matters, with a wealth of experience acting in public inquiries before Traffic Commissioners."Anton is a highly informed and personable lawyer.

Chambers UK, 2020

Posted 25/03/2021

Chris Powell focuses his practice on road transport issues, regularly representing haulage, transport and logistics companies. He has considerable experience in regulatory matters involving operator licences and compliance failings, as well as more serious criminal investigations relating to fraud.

Chambers UK, 2020

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Richard Bates

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Richard Bates leads the Litigation and Dispute Resolution team at Rotheras. Richard is a litigation specialist and can provide a wide range of services to both commercial and private clients.

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