CONTESTED PROBATE SOLICITOR - WILL DISPUTES - UK LEGAL ADVICE
Make no mistake about it, contesting a will or objecting to probate is a specialised job that most general practice solicitors have no clue about. A specialist contested probate solicitor is a rare lawyer having to have mastered the disciplines of both contentious and non contentious legal work. Most lawyers in the UK have their feet firmly planted in either court work which includes civil litigation and criminal representation or in areas of probate law that do not involve litigated advocacy or appearing in a court of law such as trusts or conveyancing. In order to successfully contest a will or object to the appointment of particular executors or administrators or to take action for failure to properly carry out the role of executor, it is essential that the contested probate solicitor dealing with these complex matters has detailed expertise and experience in both contentious and non-contentious legal matters.
There are many potential reasons why a will may be disputed or contested. It can be as a result of improper execution, forgery and fraud, loss of the original will or failure to provide for dependants. Like so many other legal matters time is of the essence and our contested probate solicitors need to be instructed at the first possible opportunity if they are to handle your potential claim efficiently. If you wish to dispute a will at an early stage and prevent the issue of a grant of probate before your claim is heard it is possible for a solicitor to issue and file in the court a document known as a caveat which at the very least will buy time to allow any grievance to be properly investigated. If there is cause for concern then legal action can be started in court prior to the expiry of the temporary stay of execution facilitated by a caveat.
What is Probate
Contested probate solicitors are often asked the question “What is probate?” by those who consider that they have an interest in the estate of a deceased person. In its simplest terms it’s a document issued and stamped by a court of law commonly called a ‘grant of probate’ that gives someone (or several people) the right to deal with the assets of a deceased person in accordance with United Kingdom law. If you are involved in dealing with the assets of a deceased person and you need to ask the question ‘What is probate’ then in all likelihood you are not familiar with testamentary law and you will need a wills and probate solicitor to deal with the technical aspects of either obtaining a grant of probate if there is a will or in cases where there isn’t a will, a similar authority called ‘letters of administration’ will be necessary to deal with the estate. Our testamentary solicitors deal with applications for probate and for letters of administration in addition to contesting wills and objecting to a probate application in certain circumstances.
Our contested probate solicitors deal with disputed wills and contentious probate, which may involve objecting to a will due to validity issues of the document in question or where there is a claim from someone who was not included as a beneficiary or was inadequately provided for including relatives and dependants. We also deal with caveats which may delay or ultimately prevent the appointment of specific executors. In addition we can take action for the removal of executors or administrators where the appointment is inequitable or in circumstances where they may have carried out their duties negligently or fraudulently. If you would like to receive free initial advice about a contentious will from a contested probate solicitor just complete the contact form or call the helpline without any further obligation. Matters that we can help with and with which we can usually give instant advice include:-
● Validity ~ Legal claims for disputed probate issued in a court of law are increasing, particularly for home made or DIY kit wills. A disputed will can be challenged by a contested probate solicitor on behalf of a potential beneficiary in a court of law and may be held to be invalid if it fails to satisfy legal requirements which include:-
~ the person making the will must be over 18 years old
~ it must be made without undue influence from another person
~ the person making it must be of sound mind and aware of its meaning
~ it must be signed in the presence of two witnesses at the same time who must also sign
~ a witness who is a beneficiary will lose their inheritance whilst the will remains valid
● Lost Will ~ If the situation of a lost will arises it is possible in certain circumstances for a contested probate solicitor to use a copy of the will to obtain a grant of probate however such action may be challenged by the beneficiaries of an earlier will who may attempt to show that the later will was not lost but destroyed by, or upon the instructions of, the person making the will in an attempt to revoke the document such method being allowed by law. In these circumstances it is up to the beneficiaries of the later will to prove that the destruction or loss of the will was not an intentional revocation by the person making it. In these cases it is inevitably necessary to provide detailed evidence supported by witnesses or documentation to prove such a contested claim in a court of law.
● Correct Beneficiaries? ~ To be valid, a will must conform to the law, failing which it will not lead to the issue of a grant of probate and a previous will may take precedence or if there is no previous will then the intestacy rules may come into play. Either of these possibilities can have a major effect on the ultimate destination of the estate. As an example if the deceased sought to cut out his immediate relatives from the will, leaving assets only to an unrelated third party and the will fails as being invalid for technical reasons then the assets will be distributed under the intestacy rules, assuming there is no previous will that thereafter takes precedence, to precisely those people that the deceased did not wish to benefit.
● Dependants ~ If there is no provision for a dependent in a will then the terms of the will can be challenged and the court can make provision for those who should have been provided for which includes a spouse, partner, a minor or a mentally disabled person. Anyone who a court may consider to be a dependent is entitled to take legal action on the basis that the deceased had a responsibility to them which was not properly discharged. If the will fails to provide for a dependant then legal action can be started to claim sufficient for the maintenance of any dependent who was being supported by the deceased shortly prior to death. A testator cannot just cut certain people out of the will without opening the door for a contested probate solicitor to take action. Legal action is in effect a re-writing of the will by a judge if the named beneficiaries and the potential dependant beneficiaries cannot come to an agreement for adjusted distribution prior to trial of the issues in a court of law.
● Inheritance Tax Disputes ~ It does sometimes happen that executors or administrators object to the assessment of Inheritance Tax made by the Capital Taxes Office. We are often able to assist in these cases particularly by use of a deed of variation of the will or simply by representation in negotiations with the tax authority.
Contested Probate Solicitors
If you believe that you are being unfairly treated as a result of the content of a will or because of the behaviour of an executor or administrator, our contested probate solicitors may be able to assist you to take legal action in a court of law. We deal with caveats and emergency injunctions in cases where property is at risk due to improper disposal and we can make emergency same day applications to the court to prevent the sale of assets. We offer free advice with no further obligation. To contact us just use the helpline or complete the contact form or email our offices and a specialist lawyer will speak to you about your case.