Wills Disputes

The loss of a loved one is a difficult thing for anyone to cope with. Unfortunately, in the wake of such a loss, disputes can arise between people who have an interest in the estate of the deceased. Sometimes this can be so serious that the dispute can only be resolved with the assistance of lawyers and we have a Registered Contentious Trust and Probate Specialist who can assist clients in this area. 

At SMR Solicitors, we can advise on how best to solve these difficult issues. We are experienced at acting with integrity in will, probate and trust disputes, which we look to resolve by negotiation, mediation or court action. 

Disputing a Will comes under an area of law referred to as “contentious probate”. This is a specialist area and we strongly recommend that you obtain legal advice from a solicitor before disputing a Will. Courts will assume that a Will is valid until proven otherwise, therefore the burden of proof is on the person bringing the claim.

Normally, the deceased’s estate is shared among the different beneficiaries according to the terms of the Will. You cannot generally dispute a Will merely because you feel that you should have received more, or because you had been promised a particular possession – unless you have a clear legal right to it (such as a contract).

There are many grounds on which a person or beneficiary can challenge a Will.

  • The Will is invalid for some reason.
  • A professional negligence claim is made against the solicitor or Will writer who negligently drafted the Will.
  • The deceased’s dependants or family did not receive “reasonable” financial provision in the Will.
  • The deceased may not have had sufficient mental capacity to authorise the Will.
  • The Will was made by the deceased under duress or undue influence.
  • The Will is fraudulent.
  • The Will was not made or executed validly: home made or DIY Wills are particularly likely to contain errors, be imprecise or be executed incorrectly.
  • The Will contains improper alterations.
  • The Will has since been revoked.
  • A newer Will exists.
  • Assets or debts have been wrongly dealt with.
  • The executors are acting improperly in the way they administer and distribute the estate.
  • Disagreements have arisen between the executors of a Will

If you feel you may have a valid claim, you should seek legal advice. You may be able to take immediate steps to help prevent assets being wrongly passed to other people. Often, the best approach will be to discuss your concerns with the executors and/or beneficiaries, and try to negotiate an agreed solution. If you cannot reach an agreement, going to court remains an option; your solicitor will be able to advise you on the strength of your case and the likely costs involved.

Time Limits

Any action taken in disputing a Will must be brought within six months from the date of the grant of probate. In practice, it is a good idea to lodge your dispute immediately prior to the grant of probate, which means that any claims should ideally be brought within six months from the date of death.
 

Martin Milward
Head of Department
Chichester
01243 812307