When a person dies, their estate is administered and all of their assets are distributed to the beneficiaries in accordance with their Will. If the deceased did not leave a Will, the person is said to have died intestate; and specific legislation is used to determine how the estate should be divided. In most cases, this takes place without incident.
However, there are occasions when a dispute may arise. When this happens, the process of administering the estate becomes known as “contentious probate”.
These types of disagreements can arise for various reasons, including a belief that the Will is fraudulent or has been forged; a perceived lack of testamentary capacity; or a suspicion that the deceased made the Will while under “undue influence”.
A party may also be able to bring a claim that the deceased failed to make reasonable financial provision for them in their Will.
The increasing number of ‘second families’ in the UK and the rising value of estates have contributed to the growing number of contentious probate cases seen over the last few years.
At OGR Stock Denton, our solicitors have a wealth of experience in handling this type of dispute, as well as the related areas of property litigation and trust law.
We take pride in offering clear and transparent advice, working to avoid court proceedings where possible.
Our experienced contentious probate solicitors are able to advise on:
- Who can contest a Will
- The grounds for challenging a Will
- Lack of testamentary capacity
- Lack of valid execution
- Lack of knowledge and approval
- Lack of financial provision
- Undue influence
- Fraudulent and forged wills
- Ratification and construction claims
Our wills and probate team includes solicitors accredited by The Association of Contentious Trust & Probate Specialists, The Society of Trust & Estate Practitioners and The Property Litigation Association.
Where appropriate, we will consider working on a no win no fee basis and can obtain after-the-event insurance to protect you against adverse costs.
For further advice on any aspect of contentious probate or inheritance disputes, please contact us today.
Contesting a Will
There are different reasons why a will might be contested:
- Exclusion from the willYou may have been expecting to be included in the will, only to find that you are not a beneficiary. This means that, as things currently stand, you do not stand to inherit anything from the deceased’s estate. This is one of the primary reasons why wills are contested.
- SuspicionYou may find that the circumstances surrounding the creation of the deceased’s will are suspect and the will should therefore be contested. In situations like this, you may have suspicions about the contents of the will, the timing of its creation, or its executor.
- Expected value of the estateThere is also the possibility that you have certain expectations about the overall value of the estate. However, you may have found that someone other than the deceased has depleted its value. This is also a valid reason for contesting the will.
- Discontinued supportYou may have been receiving financial support from the deceased before their death. If this support is not set to continue after the death, this can be used as grounds to challenge probate.
- Other disputesIt’s also possible to contest a will if you have been chosen to be an executor and you are in dispute with a co-executor or any of the beneficiaries. There may also be contentions or disputes about the sale of the deceased’s properties.
These are just some of the reasons or situations in which a will can be contested. Many other circumstances and disputes can arise as well. In fact, the number of contested wills in the UK has risen over the years as the value of estates has grown.
What to Consider
Is disputing a will worth it? There isn’t a direct or simple answer to this, other than it depends on what you consider valuable. Contesting a will can take a great deal of time and can cost a lot of money. Depending on your objectives and what you’d like to ultimately achieve, contentious probates may not be the way to go.
If you disagree with the contents of a will in some way, there are certain situations in which contesting it is the best course of action. However, the process can be quite complicated, not to mention potentially costly. Whatever the situation, contentious probate lawyers will be able to explain your options and advise you on which steps will benefit you the most.
It’s important to note, however, that if you challenge a will, the process is very unlikely to be quick and straightforward without the involvement of the courts.
Finding a Solicitor
Contested wills and probate lawyers go hand-in-hand. It’s best to make sure that you are getting sound legal advice if there is a will you want to contest.
It’s vital that you seek a specialist with a great deal of experience in the field. OGR Stock Denton has a vast amount of expertise in matters of probate and can properly advise you regarding a wide variety of disputes.
It’s also important to note that if you intend to contest a will, a normal probate solicitor is not what you’re looking for.
Regular probate solicitors are hired to handle wills and the distribution of estates with no disputes. Contentious probate solicitors, meanwhile, specialise particularly in estate disputes.
As noted, the process of contesting a will and resolving the matter is a complicated, long, and often costly process that will involve the courts. To protect your best interests, you’ll need to ensure that you hire a specialist who preferably has extensive experience in handling disputes of this nature. An experienced solicitor will be able to guide you through this complicated process.
Proper Legal Representation
OGR Stock Denton solicitors will be able to help you by providing you with expert legal advice and representation. Our extensive experience in the resolution of various kinds of disputes means we are confident that we can help you resolve issues surrounding a contested will. Our firm has been in existence for half a decade, during which time we have garnered a wealth of experience and insight to offer our clients.
Also, if you have trouble speaking English but are currently in need of legal advice and representation, don’t hesitate to come to us. Our firm employs lawyers that can speak a variety of languages, including Spanish, French, German, Swedish, Greek, Hindi, Gujarati, Kutchi, and Hebrew. Even if you’re far from home, you won’t have to worry about fair and proper representation.
If you’d like to learn more about our services, please feel free to contact us and schedule a consultation. You can call us on 020 8349 0321 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is a contentious lawyer?
The work of contentious probate solicitors in London relates to claims that result in a disagreement between two or more parties. This process can include litigation, mediation, or arbitration. Non-contentious legal work is different, as it does not involve a dispute.
What can I expect at a probate hearing?
After the judge passes a decision to probate an estate in an administration estate dispute, the court will then appoint the personal representative who will serve as the administrator of the estate. After this, the court will issue Letters Testamentary, which are a set of rules determining, among other issues, how and when a probate hearing will be held.
What happens if you don’t go through probate?
Probate will settle all of the estate’s debts. Creditors of the estate may continue to pursue payment if probate doesn’t go through.
If it is your responsibility to probate the will, but you fail to do so, you can be held personally liable for the resulting expenses incurred by the estate, as well as any other financial impact that the heirs may suffer following the death of the estate’s owner. Take expert legal advice on any issues relating to contentious probate in London at an early stage.
How long after probate do you have to contest a will?
If you are planning on contesting a will after probate in the UK, you should note that there are strict time limits within which you can do so. How long a window of opportunity you have depends on the grounds behind your claim.
Is it illegal not to probate a will?
When dealing with property inheritance, the executor or administrator of the estate is not required to file probate documents in law. However, if you don’t do so, you will not be able to legally transfer the title of the assets that are held in the decedent’s name. If you are planning on contesting probate in London, seek legal advice.
Can I contest a will after the estate has been distributed?
Yes. However, it is far more practical and will tend to cost less to contest probate before the estate has already been distributed.
This means it is best to take legal advice on filing a deceased last will dispute as soon as possible, and preferably before the grant of the probate has been issued.
Do you need a solicitor to sort out probate?
If the estate does not consist of property, investments, shares, or land, and there isn’t a great deal of money involved, then probate may not apply. Even if probate is required, there’s no legal obligation to use a solicitor, although it can ensure that matters are progressed more quickly and easily. And if you feel you have grounds to contest the will, then it is always better to seek advice from no win no fee contentious probate solicitors, to find out your rights and give your claim the best possible chances of success.
Do assets with beneficiaries go through probate?
If a benefactor dies before or at the same time as their beneficiary, their assets must go through probate so distribution covers all the deceased’s property.
However, if the beneficiary is incapacitated, the probate court can take charge of the funds through a guardianship or conservatorship. Will dispute issues may arise here, and they should be handled by experienced lawyers.
What assets are included in a probate estate?
Assets that are owned in the sole name of the decedent are considered part of probate. These may include real property that is titled solely in the decedent’s name or held as a tenant in common. Other assets include personal property such as jewellery, furniture, and automobiles.
Is probate necessary for a registered will?
If there’s no contested will controversy surrounding the assets in question, and there is a registered will in place, then it is not always necessary to file a probate order.
If the legal heirs are in dispute about the contents of a will, though, take the advice of an experienced will dispute solicitor on what needs to happen regarding probate.
How To Administer An Estate
There’s no legal impediment to a private individual carrying out the probate process on their own. However, it can be a complex area depending on the nature of the estate and the provisions of the will. There is also the question of whether you have the time and other resources to carry out probate yourself. If you decide to do so, here are the steps you need to perform:
- Check the will for an executor
- Settle the funeral fees
- Obtain a grant of probate
- Pay any due inheritance tax
- Gather the assets for distribution
- Make the will public
- Prepare the estate’s final accounts
- Distribute the assets gathered
Using A Solicitor To Write Your Will
While getting a solicitor to write your will incurs expense, the benefits of having a well-written document that covers all conceivable scenarios are that it will save your loved ones a great deal of stress and worry after your death. Moreover, a properly constructed and legally valid will can give you peace of mind, knowing that your affairs have been put in order.
But how much does a will written by a solicitor cost? This depends on the complexity of your estate. Wills can cost anywhere between £100 and £500, and the expense is particularly worth it if you hold assets overseas, operate business venture(s), are liable to pay inheritance tax, and/ or have a complex family situation.
Using a solicitor’s services brings benefits, including:
- Guaranteed protection of your assets, so that they go where you intend when you die
- Error-free documentation
- Few or no complications to be dealt with by your executors
- Your will being kept safely
The Probate Process To Notify A Beneficiary Of A Will
If there is a valid will in place, the appointed executors will deal with the deceased’s estate. They may or may not need to apply for a Grant of Probate, depending on the value of the estate. Once that has been granted, any concerned third parties such as the Land Registry and banks and building societies will be able to see who has the legal authority to manage the deceased’s assets.
After all liabilities are settled, the executors will then deal with distribution of the remaining assets under the terms of the will. They have a legal obligation to distribute cash legacies and personal gifts within a year, although it is often done sooner than this. However, if there is little cash available until assets such as property are sold, and this takes longer than expected, or someone contests the will or brings a claim because they feel they haven’t been left as much as they should have been, then this can slow the process down.
On average, it takes around nine months for beneficiaries to receive their bequests if a will is in place. If there are valid contested claims or the deceased has not left a will at all, matters can be much more complex and take longer.
To ensure that everything goes as smoothly as possible, hiring the services of experienced probate lawyers, especially if there are contentious probate claims, is essential. Choose a reputable firm of solicitors such as OGR Stock Denton LLP. If you would like some advice or want to know more about the professional services we offer, feel free to email or call our helpdesk on 020 8349 0321.