Will, Trust & Estate Disputes
A disagreement of a deceased person’s estate can take varied forms, whether it is executors failing to administer the estate properly, inheritance disputes, questioning the validity of a will or querying the value of the estate.
Our team has specialist experience in dealing with all types of disputes, both in England and Wales and internationally. We act for beneficiaries, executors and trustees - including individuals, trust companies and other organisations such as charities.
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Contesting a Will
You can contest a Will if you believe:
- it was not executed (signed) properly
- it is a forgery
- the person who made the Will was pressured by someone else to make or change a Will
- the person who made the Will lacked the mental capacity to do so at the time
If the Will is found to be invalid then the previous valid Will would take effect or if there isn’t one the estate will be distributed in accordance with the intestacy rules.
Inheritance Act Claims
If you have been cut out of an inheritance or are unhappy with your inheritance we can advise on your prospects of bringing a successful claim for a greater share of the estate.
There is a strict time limit of six months from the date of the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration to bring a claim, so we recommend you seek legal advice as soon as possible about whether there is any merit in bringing such a claim.
Certain categories of people can bring a claim against an estate where ‘reasonable financial provision’ has not been made for them either under a Will or intestacy. The categories of potential claimants include:
- a spouse or civil partner
- a former spouse or civil partner who has not remarried or entered into a new civil partnership
- a child of the deceased (including an adult child)
- anyone treated by the deceased as their child, such as a step child
- anyone who, for the two years immediately before the death of the deceased was living with the deceased as husband and wife
- or anyone who was financially dependent on the deceased immediately prior to the deceased’s death
A number of factors will be considered to determine whether ‘reasonable financial provision’ has been made and if not, what provision should be made.
Statutory Will disputes
A statutory Will is where an application is submitted to the Court of Protection to make (or change) a will on behalf of someone who cannot do it themselves.
If you have been notified that a statutory Will application has been made, it is because you are considered to be "materially affected" by a proposed Will or change to a Will. It may be, for instance, that your share of the estate is proposed to be reduced or you have been omitted entirely. If you disagree with the Will or the changes being proposed, you should seek advice from a solicitor specialising in Court of Protection matters in order to challenge it as soon as possible, as there are time limits involved.
Disputes can arise between executors or administrators at any stage of an estate administration. This can involve disputes over the value of assets, the suitability of executors, costs for which executors can charge and any other concern over an executor’s actions.
Advice may be needed to substitute or remove an executor, to issue and warn off caveats or for directions regarding the administration of an estate amongst other things.
We have significant experience in dealing with all manner of executor disputes.
Please click a question below to expand:
The first and key question to ask is "has the deceased’s estate made reasonable and financial provision?"
For the wife, husband or civil partner of the deceased, there is an objective assessment of what it is reasonable for the claimant to receive and the courts will often apply ‘the deemed divorce test’. In other words, if the parties had divorced, rather than one spouse dying, what financial settlement would have been reached? The court takes a number of factors into account, including the length of the marriage, and the contribution made by the claimant to looking after home and family.
There are 7 specific factors that the court will take into account:
- the claimant’s current financial resources and likely future needs
- the financial needs of any other claimant (such as children)
- the financial needs of other beneficiaries
- any obligations and responsibilities of the deceased towards other claimants or beneficiaries
- the size and nature of the deceased’s net estate
- any physical or mental disability of any other claimants and/or beneficiaries
- anything else that may be considered relevant, such as the conduct of the claimant
The Court can award an absolute capital sum, income, the right to purchase a property amongst others.
A child of the deceased can bring a claim but they must show that what they ought to have received in the Will is an amount that would be reasonable in all the circumstances to receive for their maintenance.
The claimant must have some reason why it was unreasonable in the circumstances that no, or no greater, provision was in fact made beyond the mere fact of a blood relationship.
Adult children who are financially secure have slim chances of succeeding according to recent cases though the claim should still be assessed like any other particularly if they are suffering from a disability.
A cohabitee is someone who was living with the deceased for at least two years immediately before their death.
Claims by cohabiting partners of the deceased would also be considered against the 7 factors mention in the spouse section above. Although the ‘divorce test’ could not be applied, regardless of how long they have lived together, the court would consider what reasonable financial provision would be required for maintaining the claimant’s standard of living.
I am an executor of an estate and have received a Inheritance Act 1975letter of claim. What can I do?
Our expert team of solicitors can also help you if you are facing an Inheritance Act claim where you are a beneficiary or an executor/personal representative.
As a beneficiary your priority will often be to ensure that as much of the estate is preserved as possible, and to protect your interest in the estate. We have a proven track record in cases like these.
On the other hand, if you are an executor, you often have a duty to remain neutral as well as to comply with strict procedural requirements. We are on hand to guide you through the legal process.
Without a will his considerable estate will be distributed in accordance with the statutory provisions and, as he and our client were never legally married, it will pass to distant family with whom he had little contact.
If things have gone wrong and there may be a case for professional negligence against negligent professional advisers for poorly drafted wills or trusts, negligent probate advice or negligent tax advice amongst other things.
Latest Blog Posts
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