Contesting a will or an estate

In England and Wales individuals are generally free to leave their property and belongings to who they choose. However, there are circumstances where the terms of a Will (or the intestacy rules if someone died without a Will) or the way the terms are implemented can be challenged. These claims are often referred to collectively as ‘Will disputes’

 

When can a Will dispute occur?

There are three main grounds for contesting a Will:
– By disputing that the validity of a Will (a ‘validity claim’);
– By asserting that the Will (or the intestacy rules) do not make proper financial provision for you (an ‘inheritance claim’); and
– By claiming that the Will is overridden by a promise made to you (‘proprietary estoppel’).

 

In addition, disputes can arise from the manner in which an estate is administered (‘executor and trustee disputes’).

 

Our specialist team of lawyers have a depth of experience guiding clients through the process of bringing or defending these claims.

 

When can I bring a validity claim?

The grounds for disputing the validity of a Will include that the person making the Will (known as the ‘testator’):
– Has not or has not correctly executed the Will;
– Did not have mental capacity to do so;
– Did not have sufficient knowledge of the terms of the Will;
– Had pressure applied on them;
– Was provided with false information which made them include or exclude someone.

 

If you are worried about a situation like this, click here to visit our page on how to contest a Will. Alternatively go straight to our Will dispute interactive service which will help you to decide whether you might have grounds to contest the Will and explains when the validity of a Will can be challenged.

 

What is an inheritance claim?

This is a claim brought under the inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (‘the Inheritance Act’) alleging that a Will (or the intestacy rules) does not leave you enough money.

 

It is different to disputing the validity of a Will – instead of challenging the validity of the Will, you ask the Court to vary it to give you a share or a larger share of the money.

 

The Inheritance Act specifies those eligible to bring an Inheritance Claim. These include spouses and civil partners, children, certain co-habitees and anyone dependent on the deceased.

 

If you are eligible to bring a claim, then you need to show that the Will (or the intestacy rules) does not leave you sufficient money to pay for your needs.

 

The Court does this by looking at which class of claimant you are and by reviewing all the facts of the case. Ultimately, each claim will be decided on its own merits.

 

If you are worried about a situation like this, visit our page on Inheritance Act Claims which will help you to decide whether you might have grounds to contest a Will in this way.

 

What is a proprietary estoppel claim?

It is not uncommon for people to make promises during their lifetime about who will receive their assets following their death.
If these promises are sufficiently clear and are relied upon, they can be enforced.

 

This type of claim often arises in connection with family businesses, especially farming business, where someone has been encouraged to work for no or low pay within the business on the understanding that it will eventually pass to them.

 

For guidance on bringing a proprietary estoppel claim, please use our proprietary estoppel interactive service

 

Executor and trustee disputes

An executor is the person responsible for implanting the terms of a Will. Similarly, trustee are responsible for administering trusts.

 

It is not uncommon for disagreements to occur between executors and trustees and the beneficiaries whose interests they represent. Whilst these disputes arise in many circumstances, based on our extensive experience of representing both executors/trustees and beneficiaries in finding solutions to disputes, there are certain common themes. These include concerns over delay, mismanagement and conflicts of interest.

 

Visit our page dealing with executor and trustee disputes.

 

How do I successfully contest a Will?

Challenging a Will in any of these ways can seem daunting not least because those wanting advice are grieving for a loved one and taking steps to dispute a Will is often not an immediate priority.

 

Where there are concerns it is important to take initial steps to protect your position. This may include registering a caveat – this prevents a grant of probate being made. A grant of probate is the authority to distribute the testator’s estate in accordance with his Will. A ‘caveat’ therefore provides time for you to instruct a solicitor specialising in Will disputes to investigate and advise on the merits of challenging the disputed Will.

 

How much does it cost to dispute a Will?

People worry about the cost of taking a Will dispute to court. However, depending on the facts of each case, the costs of undertaking initial investigations are much more modest. It will only be if the claim has sufficient merit that further costs will normally be incurred.

 

Furthermore, most claims challenging a Will do not reach trial. Instead, most Will disputes that have merit are settled by agreement or following mediation before court proceedings are commenced.

Read our guide on the costs of Will disputes.

In many cases, we can undertake initial investigations under fixed fees or using “no win, no fee” agreements.

 

How can we help you?

Our specialist Will dispute lawyers resolve disagreements as quickly as possible. We are one of the largest and most experienced teams of Will dispute solicitors in the country and we have successfully dealt with all manner of Will disputes – including many instances where our clients believed there was no prospect of reaching a settlement.

 

As all our solicitors belong to the Association of Contentious Trust and Probate Specialists, you will be looked after by an expert. We guide you through the process step by step.

 

We understand that, for many of our clients, disputing a will is a last resort. You can rest assured we will handle your dispute with care and sensitivity.

 

We listen to your instructions carefully and arrange payment terms that suit your circumstances; in many cases we offer fixed fees, deferred payments, or no win, no fee terms.

 

Our lawyers are based in Tunbridge Wells , Kent, and London. Whilst many of our clients are from the South East (including Kent, Sussex, Surrey and London), we act for clients based throughout England and Wales and from abroad. We are always willing to meet with our clients at any of our offices or at home or their place of work. We also meet with clients via online communication channels, such as Skype or video conferencing. Wherever our clients are based, we ensure we communicate with them in a way that suits their needs.

 

Call us for a free no obligation consultation.

  • Contesting a will
  • Resolving arguments about a will
  • Removing executors
  • Resolving cases when executors disagree
  • Mistakes in a will
  • Ambiguous, or poorly written wills
  • Undue influence of a beneficiary
Key Contact
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Dino Sikkel

Senior Associate

+44 (0)1892 489 587

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Sharon Borrows

Legal Secretary

+44 (0)1892 506 167

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Russell Simpson

Partner

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Myles McIntosh

Partner

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Philip Youdan

Partner

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Tristam Razzell

Associate

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Natasha Holme

Associate

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  • Successfully bringing a claim against an estate worth in excess of £50 million. The client received a very significant seven figure settlement plus annual income, the exact terms being confidential.
  • Acting for a client in a complex Inheritance Act dispute requiring an application to the Probate Registry to cancel a grant of probate improperly obtained and negotiating with multi-party defendants in numerous jurisdictions.
  • Defending a challenge to a £2 million estate involving minors and complex business assets for the children of a prominent local businessman.
  • Successfully resolving via mediation a complex multi-party dispute concerning an estate valued at £6 million. Claims from the parties involved promissory and proprietary estoppel, Inheritance Act claims, removal and appointment of alternative executors, rectification of wills, claims of undue influence and off-shore asset tracing.
  • Acting for a beneficiary under a substantial family trust containing assets valued by that trust of £20 million. The core issue concerned the mismanagement of the trust by the trustees.
  • Challenging the validity of a will with an estate valued in excess of £1 million. The case concerned allegations of forgery and the use of expert handwriting evidence.
  • Acting for an adult child claimant in an Inheritance Act claim against the estate of deceased father. Proceedings were issued within two weeks of instructions from the client due to the pressure of limitation. The matter settled swiftly and favourably by correspondence.
  • Acting for relatives of a deceased in defending an Inheritance Act claim against the estate. The deceased died intestate and the claim was brought against the estate by a friend of the deceased who claimed to have been living with the deceased as husband and wife in the two years immediately prior to her death.
  • Acting for beneficiaries in a complex claim involving estate valued at seven figures with claims by the estranged husband of deceased under IPFDA 1975. Issues of severance of joint tenancy and application for an Occupation Order on behalf of beneficiaries in relation to deceased’s home owned jointly by the estranged husband, beneficiaries and deceased.
  • Acting on behalf of clients in a long running trust dispute where an executor committed a serious breach of his duties. Proceedings against former executor for an account and recovery of losses as well as an associated professional negligence claim against the solicitors who acted for the former executors. The matter was successfully settled at a one day mediation.

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