Probate disputes

If you are dealing with the grief of losing a loved one, disputed probate and inheritance law can be too much to face. But it doesn’t have to be like that.

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What is disputed probate?

Disputed probate, also known as contested or contentious probate, occurs when one or more individuals contest a Will by making a legal challenge. Probate disputes typically occur due to one or more of the following factors:

  • The Will is not valid – If you can prove that the Will does not comply with the Wills Act 1837, for example if it has not been signed, dated, and witnessed by two independent witnesses (who cannot be beneficiaries of the Will) when the Will was made, then it is not valid and could be successfully disputed.
  • The Will was made without the capacity to do so – Wills are sometimes disputed on the grounds that the person making it did not understand the implications of the Will they were making, the extent of the property being disposed of, or the claims being provided for. If you have been left out of a Will made by someone suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, this might provide grounds for a disputed probate claim.
  • Financial dependence – The Inheritance Act dictates that anyone who is financially dependent on the deceased, and falls into the claimant categories described by the act, can dispute a Will within six months of the grant of probate.
  • Undue influence – If you believe that the person making a Will came under pressure to alter it in favour of particular individuals or groups, you may be able to make a disputed probate claim on the grounds of undue influence.

How do I gain access to a copy of the Will?

The Will of a person who has died is always made public eventually, but you may be able to gain access in advance by making a request to the deceased’s solicitor or their executor, if they have appointed one.

If making a request to the solicitor or executor is not successful, or if you don’t know who the executor is, you can lodge a standing or probate search to any probate registry in England and Wales.

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What are the costs of disputed probate?

In some cases, probate disputes can be settled out of court. In those instances, the costs might be very low. For example, you might need to simply share the fee of having a mediator assist with negotiations in order to reach an agreement.

If the dispute does go to court, the case can be settled whenever an agreement is reached and the court costs can be split between the parties.

If a settlement is not reached, and the probate dispute goes to a final hearing, an assessment will likely determine the bill to be paid by the party that loses the dispute, which usually consists of the costs of both parties. The costs are not covered by the deceased’s estate.

A family member has died and I was cut out of their Will, what should I do?

The law provides grounds for family members to make a claim of disputed probate when they have been cut out of a valid Will, but doing so will require very particular legal expertise.

Contact us for a free chat about your situation and options - and find out how we can assist you with all forms of disputed probate.

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