Probate Disputes

Dealing with the death of a loved one is difficult enough without the added stress of a probate dispute. If you find yourself forced into this situation, we can help.

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What is a probate dispute?

A probate dispute – also known as contentious probate – refers to a dispute over the administration of a deceased person’s estate. It could relate to a disagreement over the way a Will has been interpreted, or how certain assets have been valued.

If you’re worried that your loved one’s wishes aren’t being carried out properly after their death, you might have grounds to contest or challenge probate.

When can you challenge probate?

There are a number of grounds for contesting probate. But to be successful, you will need to be able to prove one or more of the following:

  • A lack of capacity
    When someone makes a Will, they must have the mental capacity to understand its contents and what this will mean for their loved ones. If someone close to you did not have mental capacity at the time of writing their Will, you could challenge the document’s validity.
  • Excessive influence
    If it can be shown that an individual was subject to undue influence at the time of writing their Will, it might be possible to dispute probate. This will usually apply if the deceased was vulnerable and taken advantage of by a family member or friend.
  • Fraud or forgery
    Thankfully, fraud or forgery surrounding Wills and probate is rare. But it can happen. If you’re considering challenging probate on these grounds, you will need to have strong supporting evidence as they can be especially difficult to prove.

These points relate to the validity of the Will itself. But you may also be able to contest probate if you believe that the executor is not fulfilling their duties in line with the terms set out in the Will. This could apply if the executor:

  • Does not take all the necessary steps to protect the deceased person’s assets
  • Fails to distribute the estate in accordance with the deceased person’s wishes
  • Puts their own interests before those of the beneficiaries

It’s also important to note that you’ll only be able to dispute probate if you’re someone who has an interest in the Will. This means that you must either be a beneficiary named in the Will, a dependant of the deceased person, or someone who is owed money from the estate.

If you’re not sure whether you’re eligible to challenge probate, our advisors can help you. We’ll listen to the details of your situation and answer any questions you may have about the process.

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How to contest probate

If you have a valid reason for disputing probate, you’ll need to submit what’s called a ‘caveat’. This will stop probate from going ahead and will last for six months. There is also the option to apply for a six-month extension.

You can apply to enter a caveat online or by post, or you could make an appointment to visit a probate registry. You’ll just need to have the following information ready:

  • The name of the person who died and any other names they were known by
  • The exact date of death on the death certificate – you can enter a caveat without a death certificate, but you’ll need to amend it with the exact date of death as soon as you know it
  • The last address of the person who has died
  • Your home address
  • Your email address (if you’re applying online)

The probate application process will be stopped one working day after your caveat is received.

How much does it cost to dispute probate?

There is a £3 fee for submitting a caveat to stop a probate application. And if your dispute is settled outside of court, the costs can remain very low.

But if your case does end up going to a final hearing, it’s likely that the courts will decide the final bill to be paid as well as how this should be split between each party. These costs will not be covered by the deceased person’s estate.

It’s also worth noting that the total cost of disputing probate could vary depending on how long it takes to resolve the case and how complicated the dispute is.

An experienced Wills, estates and probate solicitor can give you a better idea of how much the whole process could set you back after speaking to you about your situation directly.

What can I do if someone stops my probate application?

If you’ve applied for probate and someone else has submitted a caveat, the first thing you should do is try to come to an agreement with the other person. If this doesn’t work, you could consider giving them a ‘formal warning’.

To give warning, you’ll need to fill in a probate registry form detailing why you’re entitled to apply for probate. After you’ve submitted this form, it will be recorded, dated, stamped and returned back to you.

You should send or give the warning to the person who submitted the caveat, as well as keeping a copy for yourself. The individual will then have 14 days to respond by either:

  • Entering an ‘appearance’
    This will apply if the person has what’s known as a ‘contrary interest’. For instance, they might believe that the Will in question is invalid and that they’re entitled to benefit under an earlier or later version of the document.
  • Issuing a summons
    Someone might choose to go down this route if they believe that they are equally entitled to apply for probate or if they think that you are not a suitable person to act as executor.

If the person who stopped your probate application fails to respond to your formal warning, you will need to complete a statement of service form. This will remove the caveat and you will be able to continue with your application.

How can First4Lawyers help?

It is difficult enough when someone close to you passes away. But if you’re also dealing with a probate dispute, it can very quickly become overwhelming. This is where our solicitors could help you.

If you have any queries around probate disputes or contesting a Will, we could support you in finding the right legal guidance and representation. Give us a call on the number at the top of the screen to find out more or start your enquiry online.

Whenever you’re ready, we’re here to take some of the pressure of your shoulders.

Get in touch today to discuss your requirements 08005677866

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