Wills and Estates Disputes
Helping you to resolve a dispute following the death of a loved one
Dealing with the loss of a family member or close friend is never easy, but it is something that can be made significantly harder when a disagreement arises. This could be about the way in which your loved one’s affairs ought to be handled, whether their will is valid or fair, or whether to vary the default rules that apply where no will exists.
Known as contentious probate disputes, these disagreements need to be handled with care and with input from a lawyer who understands the issues that can arise and who has experience in helping to find practical solutions as quickly and painlessly as possible.
At Wilkinson Woodward, we are fortunate to have contentious probate specialists Nick Berry and Roy Dunn as part of our team. Between them, they have over fifty years’ experience in helping to resolve contentious probate matters in a sympathetic yet pragmatic way.
Their advice is straightforward and easy to understand, and all costs will be agreed with you in advance, so you remain firmly in control over how much you spend to achieve a solution.
We can help to resolve disputes about:
- who should deal with your loved one’s affairs and who is entitled to apply for a grant of probate to administer their estate;
- how a will ought to be interpreted where the language used is unclear or the will contains an obvious error;
- whether a will ought to be declared invalid because it has not been properly prepared or because your loved one was pressurised into making it, lacked the mental capacity to know what they were doing or was deliberately misled about its content;
- what ought to happen where no will exists and whether it is appropriate to disapply the rules that normally govern this sort of situation, known as the rules of intestacy;
- whether adequate provision has been made for the deceased’s spouse, civil partner or children, or for people who were financially dependent on them prior to their death, and if not whether further provision can be sought under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975;
- whether those appointed to deal with your loved one’s affairs (known either as their executor or administrator) are managing things in a fair and appropriate way; and
- whether those appointed to deal with any trusts created by a will, for example to provide for disabled relatives or children, are acting as they should be.
We can help whether your role in the dispute is as a beneficiary who stands to inherit or as an executor, administrator or trustee whose actions have been called into question.
Grant of probate disputes
Where there is disagreement about who should apply for a grant of probate, we can help you to put a block on a grant being made until the issue has been resolved by lodging a caveat with the Probate Registry which prevents any action being taken for six months.
Interpreting a will
Where there is disagreement about what a will means, we can advise you on the various interpretations that may apply, and give you our opinion on which interpretation we think is the right one based on what you have told us about your loved one and their likely wishes.
We can then support you to discuss this with your family and the executors or administrators to see whether an agreement can be reached over the meaning to be applied. Where this is not possible, we can help you to mediate the dispute or else take the matter to court.
Where the validity of a will is challenged, we can help you to determine whether any concerns that have been raised are justified and, if so, what you can do to address them. For example, if you suspect that your loved one did not have the mental capacity to make a will, then we could speak to their doctor to see if they agree and also to the lawyer they used to prepare it. Depending on what they say, we can then support you in sharing your concerns and suggesting ways in which the provisions in a will that are clearly unfair might be altered.
The rules of intestacy
Where no will exists and your loved one’s estate therefore falls to be dealt with under the rules of intestacy, we can help you to understand how those rules will apply. We may be able to negotiate a departure from the rules, such as via a deed of variation. This may be appropriate, for example, where the deceased was cohabiting with someone prior to their death, because cohabitants have no right to an inheritance under the intestacy rules.
Inheritance Act claims
Where a dispute arises over the adequacy of the provision that has been made for a close relative or financially dependent person, we can advise on whether it might be possible to bring an Inheritance Act claim. If so, we can begin negotiations to see whether a deal can be struck to avoid or end the dispute. Where it cannot, we can support you in referring the matter to mediation or to court.
Executor, administrator or trustee disputes
Executors, administrators and trustees are subject to certain duties which are designed to ensure they do things properly and fairly. Where concerns are raised that these duties are not being complied with, we can help to determine whether this is the case. If it is, we will suggest ways in which things can be put right or the person can be removed from post and replaced with someone else.