If you have found yourself in the unfortunate position of having to go to court because of a contentious will you may have found out that not only is it a long process but also not all solicitors are able to see the whole process through to the end due to a lack of skills. What often happens is that you will start with a solicitor who is experienced at dealing with straightforward probate and everything will initially go smoothly however if someone thereafter contests the will, your case may have to be transferred over to the litigation department. You might think that your initial solicitor would be able to continue throughout the process and make sure everything is resolved but this is rarely the case. Unless you have picked specialist disputed probate solicitors who are used to going to court to deal with litigated probate matters, as well as doing the normal non-contentious probate paperwork, you will normally find that your solicitor will pass everything over to someone else to deal with once it gets into court.

Technically you are not required to have a lawyer assist in preparing your will. DIY will making kits and pre-packaged documents are growing in popularity however what many of the DIY will makers don't realise is that they could be setting their beneficiaries up for an appointment with a contentious probate solicitor in due course. Making a will is a complex process, one that an amateur may or may not get right. When thinking about your assets and your loved ones, you have to consider whether a poorly written will is something you're willing to risk. Losing a loved one is difficult enough without your dependents having to dispute the validity of your will in a legal action to ensure they receive the support that they need.


Will Valid

Disputed probate solicitors litigating contentious wills handle the same types of disputes over and over again. The three issues that most often arise are the validity of the will, whether the will was lost or intentionally destroyed and whether the will provides adequate support for a dependant. Below is an overview of the state of the law as it relates to these three issues:

~ In order for a will to be valid, the testator must be over the age of 18 years, of sound mind and free from undue influence. The testator must sign the document, or acknowledged that they have signed the document, in the presence of two witnesses who then also sign the document. The witnesses must not be beneficiaries, or they will lose any inheritance bequeathed to them in the will.

~ Sometimes the deceased’s will cannot be located. When a will is lost, the proposed executor must apply to the Registry to have a copy of the will accepted in place of the original. Accepting a copy of the will sounds like a reasonable solution. However, there may be a presumption that the will is not lost but was rather intentionally destroyed by the testator as a means of revoking it. Resolving cases of lost wills requires a full court hearing. Both sides prevent evidence before a judge who weighs the facts and grants judgment in favour of one side.

~ When an individual passes away and leaves dependants behind, those dependants have the right to continued support by means of the deceased’s assets. If a dependant, such as a spouse, partner, child or mentally disabled person, is not left with adequate support under the terms of the will, that person can take action in court to claim some or all of the deceased’s assets.

Many disputed probate solicitors make a living solely by representing clients in legal action in a court of law. In these contested cases, the same mistakes arise over and over again, mistakes that could have been easily avoided with assistance from a qualified solicitorincluding:

    ~ improper execution of the will and/or failure to meet the specific witnessing and signature requirements
    ~ failing to distribute all of your assets, which enables the Crown to claim them
    ~ failing to consider the possibility that a beneficiary will die before the testator
    ~ improper attempts to alter a will or execute a codicil which invalidates part or all of the will
    ~ failing to take into account the effects that births, deaths, marriages, divorces and civil partnerships have on your estate
    ~ failing to adequately provide for dependents who may have a claim to your assets that supersedes those of your other beneficiaries

Importance of Having a Will

Making a will is a responsibility that is not to be taken lightly. A will should accurately reflect the testator’s desires and be in accordance with the law if legal action by a contentious probate solicitor is to be avoided. Individuals often fail to realise that the distribution of their assets after their death is as important as any financial transaction that occurs during their lifetime. Citizens of the UK are wealthier than ever before with many people owning homes valued at several hundred thousand pounds, substantial assets are at stake. If you die without a will, your assets will be distributed in accordance with the applicable statutes that dictate who gets your property and may even provide for some of your assets to be handed over the Crown. There is no reason to leave such an important decision up to impersonal laws that may vary greatly from your wishes.

Only a legally enforceable, properly drafted will can ensure that your estate is distributed according to your wishes which avoids the possibility of legal proceedings in a court of law. You have a specific plan in mind for the distribution of your assets and you need a will with detailed instructions to make sure that it happens. Estate planning is not just for the wealthy. Every individual should have a will.

Inheritance Tax Liability

For those with substantial assets there is inheritance tax to consider. Estates that exceed this threshold amount are subject to a tax on the value of their assets. Certain lifetime gifts may also be subject to the inheritance tax. With help from a solicitor, you can plan the distribution of your assets to minimise the amount of tax payable on your estate after your death. To help you lawfully reduce your tax liabilities both during life and after death, our solicitors offer a full range of professional services, including access to qualified accountants.

Contentious Will Solicitors

Our contentious will solicitors have the ability to handle court hearings as well as all the other issues that may come up as a result of a disputed will. No matter whether your situation is complex and involves a contentious will or is a simple straightforward matter, our probate solicitors are here to help. We offer advice at no cost and you can then evaluate that advice before deciding whether or not to proceed. All you need to do is call our helpline or complete the online form or email our offices to get legal advice from an expert solicitor who understands your situation. Regardless of what the testamentary dispute is about, it is vital that you have the right kind of probate solicitor on your side to ensure that you are properly represented.

DIY Wills

DIY will making books, kits and businesses are everywhere and legal claims for disputed probate are a current boom area for solicitors. It might sound like a simple solution, but ask yourself, how confident are you in the effectiveness and thoroughness of a homemade will? The average citizen of the United Kingdom will leave behind a considerable estate, given that the average value of a home in the UK is several hundred thousand pounds. When we pass away, a will is all we have left to speak to our intentions. You are an individual with unique circumstances. No mass-produced packet of fill-in-the-blank documents could possibly take every facet of your life and estate into account. You owe it to yourself and your loved ones to avoid a legal claim for disputed probate by employing an experienced solicitor who understands the intricacies of the law surrounding wills and probate.

Your will is one of the most important documents you will ever sign and for the sake of your beneficiaries it is important that it you avoid disputes about probate by getting it right. The distribution of everything you own depends on the terms of your will – and more importantly, on its validity. Today's citizens will be leaving behind substantial estates. A homemade will often leaves doubt as to whether your assets will actually be distributed according to your wishes and leaves the door open to disputes about probate. There is no one else like you, so how can a mass-produced will possibly account for every aspect of your estate? Protect your assets and your loved ones by using a solicitor to draft your will and avoid disputes about probate.

You are taking a big gamble when you rely on a DIY will. You wouldn't lay out a couple hundred thousand pounds on a black jack table. Yet, thousands of people take an even more serious risk by utilising DIY wills. Solicitors who operate profitable firms sorting out the problems left behind by invalid wills can tell you that it's an area rife with pitfalls. Numerous technical requirements must be met in order to draft and execute a valid will.

DIY Errors

Making a DIY will is a big risk. It’s possible that it will be fine but on the other hand, it’s quite likely that a mistake will be made that invalidates the entire will. Those with no experience in will writing won’t be aware of the many technicalities that can defeat their wishes. Just consider how many disputed probate solicitors make a healthy living from litigating poorly drafted wills. Before you purchase a DIY kit or service, consider the numerous pitfalls waiting to ensnare the unwary:

~ The law dictates specific requirements for signing and executing a will. A signature sounds quite straightforward but it is actually the area of will making most rife with mistakes and often provides grounds for a disputed probate solicitor to take legal action in a court of law. A mistake in execution can invalidate the entire will. There’s no grey area. It’s either done correctly or it isn’t.

~ Another common mistake made in DIY wills is failing to distribute all of the assets of your estate. Any asset that has not been specifically bequeathed to a beneficiary can potentially be claimed by the Crown. Then the State, rather than your loved ones, winds up with your property.

~ DIY wills tend to be bare bones documents. Yet, in order to cover every contingency, a will must often go into some fairly complex details. For instance, it is possible that one of the testator’s beneficiaries will actually die before the testator. Your will should address that possibility to ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes if such a situation arises. Remember, as explained above, assets not distributed in your will may be claimed by the State.

~ A will must anticipate the contingencies of life changes. Your testamentary intentions could change greatly after the occurrence of a birth, death, marriage or divorce. In fact, a will drafted prior to a divorce becomes invalid once the divorce is finalised. You need advice from a qualified, experienced solicitor in order to account for future events that could derail the intentions set forth in your will. A DIY will is unlikely to provide for these scenarios but may, in the alternative, provide grounds for disputed probate litigation.

~ If someone involved in the preparation of the will, such as a witness, is also a beneficiary, they could lose their inheritance. Under the law, a certain degree of involvement on the part of a beneficiary could be considered undue influence. A solicitor can help ensure that potential beneficiaries are not involved in the will making process and therefore will not lose their inheritance.

~ Dependants of the testator have the right to continued support after the death of the testator. Should a will not make adequate provisions for a dependant, that dependant can take legal action. The rights of dependants should be accounted for in the will in order to avoid contentious probate.