A devastating event brought us to call on Laker Legal. We were put in touch with Mr John Hirst, and from the first moment we spoke to him we knew everything was going to be ok. Mr John Hirst, was always on the end of the Phone or Email, Kept in touch with us 100% of the time, and the support we received took so much pain off our family. All i can say is Thank you so much for everything you did for us.
At Laker Legal Solicitors, we understand that losing a loved one can be very difficult and be made even more challenging when the estate of your loved one is not being handled or managed correctly. As contentious probate solicitors, we can help you navigate mismanagement of your loved one’s estate and family disputes over it, to ensure it is managed in accordance with the law and the deceased’s wishes.
Our specialist contentious probate and inheritance dispute solicitors are able to assist both executors and personal representatives as well as beneficiaries either stipulated by Will or by the Rules of Intestacy.
Our local contentious probate solicitors offer expert advice and assistance with:
- Inheritance disputes concerning the value of the assets of the deceased;
- Disagreements occurring between beneficiaries;
- Interpretation of the clauses within a deceased’s Will;
- Dealing with an executor who is suspected to be administering the estate of the deceased incorrectly;
- Removal of executors;
- Breach of trust and breach of fiduciary duty;
- Professional negligence in the drafting of a Will;
- Will rectification claims;
- Inheritance Act claims;
In the event that there is no Will left by the deceased and the estate is passing by the rules of intestacy, disputes can arise and our inheritance dispute solicitors can assist you if you wish to challenge who should be inheriting what in a deceased’s estate.
Unfortunately, estates can be very complex and if the deceased had multiple high value assets, business assets or even international assets then this can complicate matters further, especially where the estate is subject to inheritance tax and a dispute has arisen with HMRC or otherwise.
As local contentious probate solicitors, we are here to help you with our vast experience and provide you, upon assessment of your matter, with sensible, practical advice and a transparent approach on costs from start to finish.
Contact our contentious probate/inheritance dispute solicitors today
Please get in touch with one of our inheritance dispute solicitors near you today. Whether you are in Preston, Lancaster, Maidstone, Kings Hill, Bath York or any other location across England or Wales, we can service your individual needs. Please use our contact form, email us at email@example.com, or call us directly to speak with a local contentious probate solicitor today at any of our locations.
Our contentious probate legal fees
We understand that legal fees can be daunting especially in these types of matters where fixed fees are not applicable.
As your local contentious probate solicitors, we shall always remain upfront and transparent with you regarding the costs of your matter. Our charges are based upon the time spent on your case and our hourly rates are provided to you at the outset. Whilst we cannot provide you with a fixed fee, we will provide you with costs estimates and provide you with costs updates throughout your matter.
Our service offers transparency on costs from the very outset. We charge hourly rates ranging from £175 plus Vat to £300 plus Vat. We offer additional funding options in a variety of cases.
If you do not have sufficient income to be able to discharge legal fees but do have a significant interest in a deceased’s estate, then it may be possible to offer a deferred fee agreement whereby legal costs are paid upon settlement and conclusion of the case.
There are also various legal funding options which can be explored with the different providers if necessary.
Our contentious probate services
The mismanaging of an estate by an executor/the removal of executor
We understand that losing your loved one is hard enough without having the suspicion that an executor is mismanaging the deceased’s estate, especially when in most circumstances the executor is a family member.
An executor is the person stipulated by the testator/testatrix in their Will as being responsible for the collecting in and administration of their estate. With such responsibility comes a fiduciary duty to manage the estate properly and in accordance with the law and wishes of the deceased.
That duty includes but is not limited to collecting in the estate of the deceased, paying any liabilities that the estate has, preparing accounts which confirm the estate assets and liabilities and finally distributing the estate in accordance with the deceased’s wishes stipulated within their Will.
Often people are concerned as to the time limit for the executor to distribute the estate in the UK, but generally this varies from case to case depending on the complexity and issues.
However, in the event that is it suspected that the executor is not carrying out their responsibilities and failing in their duties or is distributing assets incorrectly then you may be able to make a claim against them in their capacity as executor of the estate. You may also be able to apply to court to remove the executor from their role and instead appoint a professional executor. Our specialist inheritance dispute solicitors can be appointed as professional executors if determined by the court or agreed by consent.
We are often asked how much it costs to remove an executor in the UK, and we can provide you with a range of costings which are transparent from start to finish.
If you think that you may wish to make a claim against an executor, then our contentious probate solicitors are here to help you. We have vast experience in this area of law and are well versed in dealing with Wills, estates and trust disputes.
Errors within a deceased’s Will
It is relatively common for disputes to arise when a deceased’s Will is unclear or contains errors. Those disputes tend to arise between family members which can make the grieving process much harder and ultimately cause significant breakdowns in relationships.
Sometimes, Wills can be unclear and not always easily understood. If you are struggling to understand the terms of a deceased’s Will, it is important that you obtain specialist advice from one of our inheritance dispute solicitors who will fully explain the Will and address any mistakes you believe have been made.
Mistakes are usually in the form of either clerical or factual errors within Wills and any mistake can cause a dispute to arise, especially where a person believes that they have not be fairly provided for.
In the event that clear evidence of a mistake can be found along with the deceased’s actual intentions being clear, it may well be possible to make an application to court to alter the Will; a process called rectification.
If there is unclear wording within a Will and you cannot agree with all other beneficiaries and executors as to the meaning of the unclear wording, then an application can be made to the court to interpret the Will; a process called construction.
Our aim is to make all processes as stress free as possible for all involved, especially our clients.
It is not uncommon for people to sadly die without leaving a Will containing their specific instructions. In this situation, the deceased has died intestate, and their assets will pass by the rules of intestacy. The rules clearly set out who can and should inherit from a deceased’s estate in these circumstances. However, it is not always the case that the Rules would follow what the deceased would have wished.
In the event of a dispute arising in an intestacy matter, the dispute usually surrounds:
- who should be entitled to administer the estate;
- whether or not a child or dependant is being provided for reasonably;
- whether there is an estranged spouse or unmarried partner who should inherit something from the estate or is not being provided for at all in accordance with the intestacy rules.
At Laker Legal, our local contentious probate solicitors understand that in the absence of a Will it can feel like a daunting task to challenge an estate. However, if you feel as though you have been left out of inheriting from a deceased’s intestate estate or have not received provision sufficient for your needs then please get in contact with our team of inheritance dispute solicitors for help.
Inheritance Act claims
Under The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act, a person may be able to make a claim depending on their relationship with the person that has sadly passed away. However, in order to do so, several criteria need to be met.
Making such a claim can be stressful and isolating especially when you are grieving the loss of a loved one. Our inheritance dispute solicitors are specialists in dealing with inheritance disputes, contesting Wills and probate, and inheritance act claims.
Whilst we will handle your case with great care, these types of claims are time sensitive and if you think you are eligible to bring a claim then you must act quickly and obtain legal advice as soon as possible.
There are specific instances which may determine whether or not you wish to make a claim, such as:-
- You have received no provision in the deceased’s Will;
- You have not received enough provision as you need or expected within the deceased’s Will; or
- The person who passed away has not left behind a Will and has died intestate.
The Act as described above confirms that you may be eligible to make a claim if one of the above instances applies to your situation and you are one of the following:-
- A spouse or civil partner;
- A former spouse or civil partner if you have not re-married and if there is no term within divorce settlement preventing a claim being made;
- A cohabitee if you have lived in the same house as the person who has passed away for at least 2 years prior to their death or have lived with them as if you were spouses;
- A child of the person who has passed away either adopted or biological;
- Someone who was to the deceased like a child (i.e., a step child of the deceased) or
- A dependant (someone who was wholly or partially maintained by the deceased).
If you believe that you satisfy the criteria outlined above then it is important that you obtain specialist legal advice from our team of expert contentious probate solicitors as soon as possible as you have 6 months from the date of the grant of probate or letter of administration to make a claim.
Questions commonly asked about Contentious Probate
It is important to understand what contesting a Will actually is before being able to actually contest the Will. By seeking to contest a Will you are seeking to challenge the validity of the Will by suggesting that either one of the following has taken place: –
- The deceased person who made the Will did not have the capacity at the time of making the Will to make the Will.
- It was impossible for the deceased person at the time the Will was executed to have understood the contents of the Will.
- It appears evidence that the deceased person was coerced into making the Will.
- The Will appears to have been fraudulently drafted.
Alternatively, you may be seeking to contest the Will under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 on the basis that the Will does not provide you with reasonable financial provision and you were in some way during the deceased’s lifetime maintained financially by them.
If either of the above applies to you then you should do the following: –
- If possible enter a ‘caveat’ with the District Probate Registry to stop an application for either letters of administration or a grant of probate being approved. A caveat is usually in place for 6 months and can be extended which gives you the opportunity to explore the grounds you have to contest the Will. This cannot go on indefinitely and executors/personal representatives can lodge a warning at the District Probate Registry where you will then be asked to either rescind your caveat or make an appearance at court to substantiate why you believe the caveat is necessary.
- Correspond with the executors of the Will directly or indirectly via solicitors to obtain a copy of the Will and review its contents. Although, a copy will only usually be released if you are named as a beneficiary or are the parent/guardian of a child who is set to inherit.
- Make an application to the court. This is usually a last resort to mitigate legal fees but nevertheless is an option available if all other avenues have been exhausted.
When the question arises as to the validity of a Will, then there are few grounds to rely on legally and those grounds are as follows: –
- Lack of testamentary capacity
At the time of drawing up and executing the Will, the deceased, in accordance with law, must have been ‘of sound mind, memory and understanding’. Essentially, this means that the deceased must have been able to understand what they were doing at the time of making the Will, understand their estate and what they would be distributing to who, be able to understand who they were including or excluding from their Will, and not have a disorder of the mind.
- Undue influence of coersion
This is where it is believed that someone put pressure on the testator/testatrix to distribute their assets in a certain way and usually to their benefit when the person was making their Will. This unfortunately can be extremely difficult to prove, but in the event that a Will was drafted by a solicitor, the solicitor should have detailed notes on the instructions provided by the deceased and how those instructions were given.
- Lack of knowledge and approval
To be valid a Will must have been understood by the testator/testarix and they must have themselves approved the contents. If the Will has been executed correctly and signed by the testator/testarix in the presence of two independent witnesses then it is usually presumed that knowledge and approval has taken place. However, in the event that the deceased person had a speech impediment, was illiterate, was blind or paralysed then the court may well require evidence to prove that the testator/testarix had sufficient knowledge and approval.
- Non compliance with Section 9 of the Wills Act 1837
For a Will to be valid in accordance with S9 of the Wills Act 1837, it must be each of the following: –
- The person making the Will must be 18 years or older.
- The person making the Will must make the will freely and voluntarily and without any pressure from another person.
- The person making the Will must be of sound mind and with full capacity at the time of making and executing the Will.
- The Will itself must be in writing.
- The Will itself must be signed by the person making the Will (the testator/testatrix) in the presence of two independent witnesses who are not named in the Will or family members.
- The Will itself must be signed by the above two independent witnesses who attest the Will to confirm that they have witnessed the Will being executed by the testator/testatrix.
- Forgery or Fraud
If it can be determined that the Will of the deceased is fraudulent, either by way of the signature being forged or the contents being fraudulent then the Will is deemed invalid. Sometimes, it may be necessary to appoint a handwriting expert to determine whether or not it is more likely than not that the signature is that of the deceased.
There are many reasons why people wish to make a claim against a deceased’s persons Will, but, there are only two reasons which are considered valid in law. Those reasons are as follows: –
- There is cause to believe that the Will is invalid; and/or
- The Will fails to provide ‘reasonable financial provision’ for a family member or a person who was ‘financially maintained’ by the deceased before their death.
If you believe that the Will of the deceased may well be invalid then it is important to explore what makes a Will valid in the first place. In accordance with Section 9 of the Wills Act 1837 (see ‘Grounds for contesting a Will’ FAQ above).
If you believe that the Will is not executed in accordance with S.9 of the Wills Act 1837 then you may well be able to contest the Will.
Secondly, if you believe that the Will is valid but you have received no provision from the deceased within the Will despite being financially reliant on them in some way, it may be possible to contest the Will and is considered a valid reason to consider contesting the Will.
The success rate of contesting a Will, will very much depend on the reason why you are contesting the Will and whether you have the legal grounds to bring a claim. In most cases, the main reason why people contest a Will is because they believe that at the time of making the Will the deceased did not have the requisite capacity.
The reason why you wish to contest a person’s Will is not necessarily the main point to consider, the main focus is that you must have the proof required in order to make a claim first. The outcome of any claim being successful very much depends on you first satisfying the criteria of who and why you can make a claim and then following that up with the necessary supporting information to your case.
The more information and proof that can be gathered to support a claim will ultimately directly correlate to likely success.
It is always advisable, before making any claim, to seek the specialist advice of a solicitor. A solicitor will be able to advise you on your likely success rate and what is required to support your claim.
Before determining whether or not to bring a claim it is essential that you are certain you are eligible to contest a Will. Below you will find a list of people entitled to make a claim against a Will: –
- Family members
Blood relations are included within the Inheritance (Provisions for Dependants) Act and are therefore able to claim that a Will is invalid provided that they provide proof that the Will is invalid.
If you are not a blood relative but a relative by way of marriage then your relationship with the deceased will be taken into account and you may have some legal protections offered to you but only in narrowly defined circumstances; those being that you were maintained by the deceased financially in some way before they died.
In the event that you are set to inherit from a Will and the executors are not releasing the sums owed to you or items given to you then you will have grounds to make a claim provided the Will is valid. This scenario is usually considered a breach of the executor’s fiduciary duties to the estate.
As a beneficiary you may also wish to contest your share of the estate if it is unequal to another beneficiary’s and you feel that it is unfair, for example two siblings inheriting from their parents’ estate unequally.
- Beneficiaries of earlier Wills
You may be entitled to contest a Will if you can prove that you were a beneficiary in an earlier Will of the deceased and you can provide a valid reason as to why you should still be a beneficiary. For example, if a married couple divorced and the ex-husband was still paying to the ex-wife child maintenance but the ex-husband dies leaving no provision for the ex-wife for the purposes of assisting in the upbringing of the children then it would be reasonable to seek to contest the Will. It is important to remember that any gift to the children is for the children when they attain adulthood and is not for the purposes of assisting in raising them.
If the deceased person owes money to you then you are entitled to claim back those funds from the deceased’s estate provided there is clear evidence that the funds are owed to you.
- Broken Promises
This is a very complex area of law because it is very difficult to prove that the person who died promised you inheritance when their Will does not reflect that. If this applies to you then seeking legal advice sooner rather than later is always advised. Ultimately, you will need to prove that the promise was made to you and that you are at a detriment with the promise being broken.
- Financial Dependants
If you are not related to the deceased person but were in some way financially dependant upon them, then it may be possible to make a claim against their estate, especially if they assisted you with housing or made significant financial contributions to you on a regular basis. However, be aware that if this applies to you, a claim must be made within 6 months of the date that Probate is granted.
It very much depends on the type of claim you are making as to the time limits involved in bringing your claim.
If you are bringing a claim for reasonable financial provision (usually termed Inheritance Act claims), then you must make this claim within 6 months from the date at which either the grant of probate was granted or the letters of administration were granted. In the event that you seek to make a claim after the 6 month period, then you shall need to first seek the permission of the court which can be a lengthy and costly process.
In the event that there has been an error made within a Will that is purely clerical, then it is possible to apply to the court for recitifcation of the Will. In the event that this is required, you again must make this claim within 6 months of the grant of probate being issued.
All other claims against an estate are governed by the Limitation Act, in particular Section 22 which allows you to make a claim within 12 years of the date of death. However, if you think that you may be able to bring a claim against a deceased person’s estate in some way, it is always better to take action straight away rather than wait.
There is no limit imposed if the claim relates to fraud.
It is possible to contest a Will after probate has been granted but it is always best to deal with any potential claim as quickly as possible as it is often much more difficult to recover anything from an estate when the assets have already been distributed and dispersed.
It is possible when making a Will to include a no contest clause which is also known as a forfeiture clause. Such a clause stipuilates that a beneficiary who wishes to contest the Will, will ultimately forfeit their inheritance.
However, it can still be determined that the Will is invalid which will of course invalidate the no contest clause. For example, if the Will doesn’t comply with S9 of the Wills Act 1837 then the Will is invalid and so is the no contest clause. If this is the case, the earlier Will of the deceased will apply or alternatively, if there is no earlier Will, the estate will pass via the Rules of Intestacy.
A forfeiture clause within a Will is a very useful clause especially where the tesator/testatrix wishes to leave nominal sums to children for example which is usually more effective than leaving a person out of your Will entirely. However, it is important to understand that a no contest clause cannot always irradicate the possibility of someone raising a challenge. In the event that there are concerns as to the validity of the Will then this should always be taken into consideration even where a no contest clause is present.
It is also important to understand that a no contest clause does not irradicate someone being able to make an Inheritance Act claim if they have grounds to make such a claim by being financially dependant on the deceased.
Contesting the validity of a Will and bringing an Inheritance Act claim can be very expensive simply because of the amount of investigatory work involved prior to issuing court proceedings.
It is important that you are aware that if you decide to bring an Inheritance Act claim before the court then the court have discretion as to costs and the loser may be ordered to pay the winner’s costs. Further, as a general rule, costs of proceedings are to be paid privately by the parties and are not necessarily borne from the estate.
The exact amount that it will cost to contest a Will largely depends on when the dispute settles and if the court’s assistance is required.
If the dispute is settled following on from minimal correspondence with the other party involved then costs are likely to be in the region of £1,500 – £5,000 plus VAT. However, if some form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is engaged then you can expect costs to be anywhere between £5,000 – £15,000 plus VAT.
If ADR is not successful and no agreement has been made between the parties, the only other option available to you is to seek remedy from the court. The cost of proceedings can vary depending on the complexity, but in most cases you can expect costs to escalate to somewhere between £15,000 – £25,000 plus VAT which can increase beyond that point if the matter is particularly complex.
Given the costs involved in these types of matters, it is always important for a specialist contentious probate solicitor to assess the merits of your case straight away and to engage in positive negotiations as soon as possible in order to try to minimise legal costs.
In most cases, any dispute will settle before the claim has to go to any trial at court. Usually, this is because it can take up to 1 year for a case to be heard in court depending on the claim and it is also very costly.
It very much depends on the type of claim as to the likely timescales involved. For example, if there was a simple clerical error within a Will that you are seeking rectification of then it is likely that this will be much quicker to finalise than a claim for reasonable financial provision would be under the Inheritance Act.
It is usually adviseable for alternative dispute resolution (ADR) to be used where appropriate as this can speed up the finalising of any disupute by encouraging the parties to reach an agreement without the need of going to court and engaging in costly, lengthy and protracted proceedings at court.
There are multiple forms of ADR and these are: –
- Discussion and negotiation between the parties; and
- Asking an independent third party to comment of the likely success of your claim.
It can take some time to prepare a case as there are multiple stages involved in contesting a Will and these are detailed below: –
- Establish whether or not you have grounds to contest a Will.
- Check the time limits to bring a claim and check that the permission of the court is not needed to being a claim if you are bringing a claim out of time.
- Consider entering a caveat at the District Probate Registry to stop a grant of probate or letters of administration being issued.
- Consider whether ADR is appropriate in your circumstances.
- Ensure that full compliance with the ACTAPS Pre-Action Protocol is adhered to.
- If all other attempts at negotiation have failed, considering issuing court proceedings.
Each case is different, carrying its own complexities, and therefore it is impossible to provide an approximate timescale until the full details of each case have been explored. Depending on the complexities involved at the outset, a solicitor should be able to provide a rough timescale through to conclusion of the case, but this is not a strict rule.
Contact our Inheritance Dispute Solicitors
If you would like to speak with one of our specialist inheritance dispute solicitors in Preston, Lancaster, Maidstone, Kings Hill, Bath or York then please contact us directly by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, by completing our online contact form, or by calling us directly.
We are a nationwide firm of contentious probate solicitors and can assist you no matter your location in England and Wales.