Wills and Inheritance Disputes

Speak to our Wills and Probate Solicitors for sound advice on inheritance dispute and contentious probate.

Have you been left out in a Will?

When a person dies, his or her executor will find the Will of the deceased, report the estate’s value and apply for probate. The grant of probate is then given based on the understanding that the Will is valid and truly reflects the last wishes of the deceased – but what happens if the Will is not valid? What can you do if you have been left out despite promises being made to you? What if there is another Will?

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Some common grounds for contesting a Will include:

  • The Will found is not the last Will of the deceased
  • The deceased had been pressured or influenced into writing or changing the Will
  • The deceased did not have the mental capacity at the time when the Will was created
  • The Will does not make provision for the dependents
  • Unknown, missing, or lack of witnesses present when the Will was signed

What is contentious probate?

When a Will is contested, when an inheritance is challenged, or when disagreements broke out between the executor and the beneficiaries, it is classed as Contentious Probate.

If you have been left out of a Will, or if you suspect the Will was written under influence, you need to contact an experienced Wills and Probate Solicitor immediately. Beware that you may only have a short period of time to contest a Will, and it is rarely a straightforward process as many people can be involved. Also, there are different deadlines depending on the nature of your claim; missing the deadline means you lose the right to bring a claim altogether.

How to stop probate

It is often easier to contest a Will before probate is granted or when a grant of representation is issued, meaning before the executor can distribute the assets of the deceased.

To stop a grant of representation from going ahead, you can lodge a caveat with the Probate Registry which will remain in force for six months from the date it is entered. A caveat gives you time to decide if you are going to dispute the Will – and it gives you time to discuss your case with a solicitor. Having an experienced solicitor working with you means you are taking the right steps to get the disagreement resolved quickly and cost effectively. Avoid going through the process on your own as mistakes can be costly.

Disputes with executors

Wills and inheritance disputes between the executor and the beneficiaries are common. All disputes are unpleasant, but with the help of an experienced Wills and Probate Solicitor, disputes can be settled quickly and in many instances, outside of Court.

Legal mediation aided by one of our trained solicitors is ideal for Wills and inheritance disputes because it aims to resolve the issues swiftly and economically. Independent and trusted, we work hard to find an agreement between the executor and the beneficiaries, or among the beneficiaries, allowing them to move on.

Disputes among executors

A person creating a Will usually appoints more than one executor in case one of the executors is unavailable when the time comes. The executors may then seek help from a Probate Solicitor like us so they understand how to administer the estate correctly. But if the executors can’t agree among themselves, they can apply to the Court. The Court will get involved to revoke a grant in favour of one executor and issue a grant in favour of another, or appoint an independent third-party executor. An executor can also be replaced, although this is less common.

How to challenge a Will

There are many reasons you may want to challenge a Will and the three most common reasons among them are:

Lack of financial provision

If you were financially dependent on the deceased, you should be given adequate provision in their Will. The Provision for Family and Dependants Act 1975 – also known as the Inheritance Act – allows you to make a claim if the deceased did not provide ‘reasonable financial provision’ when it was their legal obligation to do so. The people who have the right to make a claim under this act include:

  • Wife/husband of the deceased, civil partner or same-sex partner.
  • Divorced wife or husband who has not remarried.
  • Child of the deceased.
  • A person who was maintained by the deceased, or treated as their child.

Lack of mental capacity

In some cases the person who made the Will might not have fully understood what they were doing, for example, they had dementia and lacked mental capacity to know what they were doing. It can be difficult to prove lack of mental capacity after the fact, but if there are issues with the Will, such as recent changes or unusual requests, they may be a starting point for investigation.

Undue influence

The person who made the Will might have been influenced or pressured. If the Will significantly favours one child or relative over everyone else, or if it favours an unrelated person who only became known to the deceased recently, there is a cause for concern.

Other concerns that can drive a person to challenge a Will include:

  • Unknown, missing or a lack of witnesses present when the Will was signed.
  • Family members don’t believe the contents of the Will are what the deceased would have wanted.
  • A solicitor was not involved in the creation of the Will.

How long do I have to challenge a Will?

How you challenge the Will and how much time you have before contesting it formally depend on the nature of your claim. For example, if you believe you can make a claim under the Inheritance Act 1975, you only have six months to do so after the grant of representation. On the other hand, if fraud was committed when the estate was finalised some years ago, you can still challenge it today.

The main time limits to look out for are:

  • Inheritance Act claim – 6 months from the date of grant of probate.
  • Beneficiary claim against an estate – 12 years from the date of death.
  • Claiming against the validity of a Will or against an executor for appropriating assets – No limit.

To know what kind of claim you can make, it’s best to contact one of our Wills and Probate Solicitors as soon as possible.

Also, in many cases the costs of bringing a claim against an estate will be paid out of that estate rather than your own pocket.

Romain Coleman can help with Wills and inheritance disputes

Whether you are planning to dispute a Will, or someone is challenging a will in which you are named, you have a better chance of success with the help of an experienced Wills and Probate Solicitor.

At Romain Coleman, we have helped families in London with Wills and inheritance disputes since 1964. In every case, we listen and determine if you can indeed make a claim first. We then explain the process associated with a Wills and inheritance dispute in a clear and concise way, free of legal jargon. Our costs are also openly stated and with no hidden charges.

In many instances, when you bring or defend a claim against the estate of a deceased person, the cost is paid out of the estate – so you are not likely to bear the cost.

Wills and inheritance disputes can cause emotional exhaustion. This is why we handle every case with sensitively and discreetly, giving you the support you deserve.

Contact us now

Our Wills and Probate team is here to help you, so give us a call now on 0208 520 4555 or complete our Free Online Enquiry form.