Contentious Probate: What To Do

Dealing with probate is already a stressful matter, but it’s made even worse when there is any dispute about the administration of the person’s estate.

Having to face contentious probate could just make you feel worse when you’re already dealing with grief over losing someone you cared for.

We've put together this guide to help you dispute probate on the correct basis, giving you the best opportunity of securing the outcome you want.

Reasons for contentious probate

Families and others close to the deceased can, unfortunately, disagree over the terms set out in a Will – and often the actual Will itself. This can lead to a lot of tension and stress among those involved in the estate administration.

There could be a number of reasons for contentious probate. This could include:

  • Will invalidity

Probate may be disputed on the grounds that the Will in question is not legally valid. It could refer to the Will not being signed, dated or witnessed by two independent witnesses. A Will has to comply with the Wills Act 1837, so if there is any part of it that doesn’t, it could be disputed on legal grounds.

  • Incapacity

A Will may be contested if there are any questions around whether the person who made it had the capacity to do so. This is when they may not have understood the implications of what they were doing when writing their Will. They may have had trouble understanding the full extent of what was being left after their death or who was being provided for. It is more common for incapacity to be grounds for contentious probate when the deceased suffered from some form of dementia or had experienced a brain injury.

  • Financial dependence

According to the Inheritance Act, certain people close to the deceased can apply to the court for an order on the grounds that the Will – or the rules of intestacy – do not make sufficient financial provision for them. It can be done by the deceased’s children, spouse or civil partner, former spouse or civil partner who has not remarried, or other financial dependent.

  • Undue influence

Contentious probate can be the result of an accusation of undue influence. This means that someone thinks the deceased was being influenced to set out certain terms in their Will, which they wouldn’t have done without this person’s pressure or manipulation.

  • Fraud

The most obvious example of fraud causing contentious probate is when someone thinks the Will was forged. This is a more uncommon form of dispute, due to the criminal nature, but it is certainly not unheard of.

How to dispute probate

To prevent probate being granted, you’ll have to submit a caveat. It will last for six months, but there is an option to extend this for another six months.

As long as you’re over the age of 18, you can submit a caveat. A solicitor could do it for you if you need some help. They’ll be able to guide you through the process of contentious probate and work to get you what you should have received in the first place.

When submitting a caveat, you’ll need to include a signed application for a caveat (form PA8), as well as the full name, date of death and last address of the person who has died. To enter a caveat, write to or visit a Probate Registry.

It’s vital to start the process as soon as possible so you don’t run out of time to dispute probate. The Inheritance Act states that you will only have six months from the date of the grant of probate to do so.

But there are some exceptions. For example, beneficiaries are allowed 12 months, while there is no time limit for disputes based on fraud.

If you need help from a probate solicitor, get in touch with First4Lawyers. Our understanding advisors will talk you through your options at this difficult time. To speak to us, just give us a call, request a call back or enquire online.


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