Contentious Probate Solicitors
Coping with the death of a loved one is always difficult, but this process can become even harder to handle when a dispute arises over the deceased person’s will and estate. When this happens, the contentious probate solicitors at Clough & Willis are here to help.
Our expert legal team is highly experienced in resolving will disputes and finding a solution to the problems caused by contentious trusts. We will provide guidance and support throughout the process to help bring contentious probate claims to the fairest possible conclusion, and will handle the case with the sensitivity and compassion it requires.
How we can help
Contentious probate cases arise when there is a dispute over the administration of a deceased individual’s estate. This may concern the value of their assets or disagreement over how their will should be interpreted; it may also pertain to other conflicts between the estate’s executors and beneficiaries.
The contested probate solicitors at Clough & Willis can help to resolve these disputes by assessing the facts of the case and advising you on the best legal solution. Our services include:
- Challenging the validity of a will
- Defending against a contentious probate claim
- Asset valuation
- Applying for executors to be substituted or removed
- Assisting with the recovery of assets
We have experience of representing executors, administrators, beneficiaries and trustees in contested probate cases. We understand how emotive these situations can be, and will always strive to deliver a fair and amicable resolution.
When can a will be contested?
A will can be contested on a number of legal grounds, including:
- Lack of testamentary capacity, or mental capacity to make a valid will
- Lack of testamentary intention, meaning the document was not intended to act as a will by its maker
- Lack of due execution, when the document has not been drafted and signed correctly
- Lack of knowledge and approval, meaning the testator did know or approve the contents of the will
- Undue influence, when the will’s contents were influenced by coercion or manipulation
- Fraud or forgery, when the will can be proven to be faked or created under false pretences
- Rectification or construction, or pertaining to a dispute over the interpretation of the will
- Claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, when a beneficiary believes the will does not offer them a reasonable financial provision.
Can you contest a will after probate?
A contest to the validity of a will, due to errors made in its preparation and/or execution, seeks to reinstate the prior will (if there is one) or to have the estate divided in line with the laws of intestacy (where there is no earlier valid will). In any case, there is no deadline for filing contest claims in court.
However, the longer a person waits to file a claim after probate has been granted, the more likely it is that the executor will have given the estate's assets to the beneficiaries listed in the contested will.
Finding the estate's assets and getting them back into the hands of the beneficiaries after a successful claim can be difficult, expensive, and time-consuming - especially if the assets have already been spent or sold.
FAQs About Contentious Probate
If you are concerned about the validity of a will, it can be hard to know where to turn. Contentious probate disputes can be difficult and carry an emotional burden, as well as a need for strong and practical legal advice. By working with Clough & Willis, you will be able to discuss the grounds on which you can contest a will, the evidence you can provide and your likelihood of success before the process begins, so you will know what to expect going in.
Our specialist contentious probate solicitors will handle all of the legal challenges that arise; so, whether you are concerned about probate and estate administration or the will itself, we will make sure your rights are upheld and fight for the best possible outcome from your situation. That way, you will have more time to focus on your family while you deal with your grief.
Our probate specialists provide a range of services, from contesting the validity of a will to applying to remove an executor or offering legal advice about estate administration. We can also act in the capacity of a professional executor, and our presence as a neutral third party can often help to avoid or resolve inheritance disputes before they arise.
In most cases, deadlines will apply when you are making a claim against an estate. Even in cases where there is no strict time limit - such as if you intend to contest the validity of a will, or seek to have an executor removed from their position - it is highly advisable to initiate this type of action as soon as possible. Once the probate process has begun, and particularly after estate has been distributed, it can be incredibly difficult to rectify the situation. You can find out more or start this process by calling our contentious probate team today.
The deadlines that apply when making a contentious probate claim vary depending on the nature of the claim, so it is essential to seek legal advice from expert contentious probate lawyers at the earliest opportunity if you're considering making such a claim. For example, if you are making a claim against specific property within the estate, the time limits can be complex and will often depend on the specific nature of your claim, so it is vital to act as soon as possible to avoid missing your chance.
If you're making a claim under the Inheritance Act for financial provision from the estate, the general rule is that you have six months from the date when the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration were issued. However, even in these cases, it is worthwhile to begin the process early. This will mean that, if you are successful, you will start to receive your financial provision sooner, removing some of the stress that can arise if you have financial worries after a loved one passes away.
Claims from creditors against the estate generally need to be made within the time limits for debt recovery, which vary depending on the specific situation. As such, it is crucial to consult with a solicitor who specialises in contentious probate to ensure that you take action within any applicable time limits. No matter what type of claim you want to make, legal advice is important, because failing to meet deadlines can result in you losing your right to make a claim.
The contentious probate solicitors at Clough & Willis can assist you in seeking the removal and replacement of an executor who is mismanaging an estate. Executors have a fiduciary duty to manage an estate diligently and in accordance with the law. If they fail in these duties, it can be grounds for their removal.
Some of the common grounds for seeking the removal of an executor include:
- Misappropriation or theft of estate assets
- Failure to progress the probate process in a timely manner
- Failure to provide accounts or other information to beneficiaries
- Conflicts of interest
- Lack of capacity or suitability to act as executor
Executors typically have a lot of responsibilities, and this can be difficult to manage. If an executor has failed to meet the standard that is expected of them, or to fulfil any of their legal duties, you can often apply to have them removed (and replaced, if necessary).
Before you consider taking legal action, your first step should be to speak to the executor and try to resolve the dispute without going to court. In many cases, these challenges can be overcome through negotiation, and a solicitor can advise you on this process if necessary. An executor can apply to have themselves removed from the post if they feel that they do not want the responsibility.
The legal process for removing an executor generally involves applying to the court, and this can be complex. You will need to provide evidence to demonstrate that the executor is not performing their duties adequately. If the court agrees that there are sufficient grounds for removal, it can appoint a new executor to replace the existing one. You can apply to be the new executor yourself, appoint a professional to take on the role, or nominate someone you trust.
The courts are generally reluctant to remove executors unless it is clear that the executor has failed in their duties or is otherwise unsuitable - this is just one reason why you will need legal support and strong evidence. Court proceedings can be both time-consuming and costly, but in some cases, they may be the only way to resolve a dispute with an executor.
We can assist you in making an Inheritance Act claim even if there is no will. The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 applies to both testate and intestate estates - that is, it applies equally to estates where a will has been left, and those with no valid will.
In the absence of a will, an estate is distributed according to the rules of intestacy. These laws set out a specific order of priority for relatives who may inherit from the estate - meaning that the estate will be inherited by the deceased’s spouse, or their children if they had no spouse, or their parents if they had no children, and so on. The intestacy laws only provide for married spouses and civil partners, but not for long-term or common-law partners, nor stepchildren.
If a loved one’s estate is distributed according to the intestacy rules and you feel that they do not make reasonable financial provision for you, then you may be eligible to make a claim under the Inheritance Act. Even in cases where there is a will, you may be able to make an Inheritance Act claim if you believe that it does not make financial provision for you.
The following people can usually apply:
- The spouse or civil partner of the deceased.
- Former spouses or civil partners, who have not remarried or entered into another civil partnership.
- Children of the deceased.
- Any person treated as a child of the deceased.
- Cohabitees who lived with the deceased for at least two years immediately prior to the death.
- Any other person who was financially dependent on the deceased.
It is best to work with a solicitor to apply in these cases. Our expert team can help you in several ways:
- Evaluate whether you have a valid claim under the Inheritance Act.
- Advise you on the strength of your claim and the types of provision you may be entitled to.
- Assist you in gathering the necessary evidence and documentation.
- Negotiate with the other parties involved to seek an out-of-court settlement wherever possible.
- Prepare and submit the required legal forms and documentation if the claim proceeds to court.
Given the complexity and sensitivity of Inheritance Act claims, legal advice is strongly recommended. Clough & Willis’ expert contentious probate solicitors can support you at all stages of this process and give you the best chance of success in making your claim.
The terms ‘contentious probate’ and ‘contesting a will’ are often used interchangeably, but they do not refer to exactly the same thing. Both relate to disputes arising after someone has died, typically concerning their estate or the distribution of their assets. However, they refer to different aspects of the legal process involved.
Specifically, contesting a will specifically refers to the legal process of challenging the validity of a will. If you believe the testator lacked the mental capacity to understand the implications of their will when it was created, that they were manipulated or coerced into making certain provisions, or even that the will was not signed or witnessed correctly and is therefore legally invalid, you might decide to contest it. This can result in the will (or specific provisions within it) being invalidated.
On the other hand, contentious probate is a broader term that encompasses all types of disputes that can arise during the probate process. Probate is the legal process of administering someone's estate after they've died. This includes gathering assets, paying debts, and distributing what remains to beneficiaries. Contentious probate could include disputes over:
- The validity of the will (which would include contesting the will);
- The interpretation of the will's terms;
- The conduct of executors or trustees in administering the estate; or
- Claims against the estate from creditors or family members who feel they have been unfairly excluded.
While contesting a will is a type of contentious probate, not all contentious probate matters involve contesting a will. Contentious probate could include a variety of other disputes and challenges related to the administration and distribution of an estate.
This is why it is important to work with an expert contentious probate solicitor if you have any concerns about a loved one’s will. These situations can become complicated, particularly when there are multiple interrelated concerns, but our team has a wealth of expertise in all aspects of probate and can provide practical, straightforward advice. We excel in all of the legal services you might need to resolve a legal dispute over a will and move on from what can otherwise be an emotionally difficult time.
If you are contesting the validity of a will, you will need to argue your case before the court. However, in other cases, you may be able to resolve a dispute by talking to the other parties involved and reaching an agreement. This should always be your first step, and this can be used to resolve challenges with executors, concerns over financial provision, and other common issues that may arise during the probate process.
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