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Contentious Probate and Inheritance Claims

"Death is not the end.  There remains the litigation over the estate"

 

- Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914)

 

 

The death of a family member or loved one can be an extremely difficult time.  Sometimes the contents of a Will cause surprise and upset to remaining family members and friends.  If there is no Will, people may not know where they stand.

 

Unlike the Hollywood movies or Agatha Christie plays there is, generally speaking, no formal reading of a Will.  In times past there often was because so many people were illiterate and communication was more difficult.  These days, however, it is very rarely done.  Instead, beneficiaries are notified of their entitlement in writing by the appointed solicitors, executors or administrators.  It is usually at this time that issues begin to surface, when people who were perhaps expecting to be contacted receive no letter and start asking questions, or people realise they are not going to get what they were expecting.

 

Beneficiaries are not usually entitled to receive a copy of the Will or know about anyone else’s entitlement.  This may be advantageous to begin with, but a Will becomes a public document once a grant of probate has been issued, so it is difficult to keep things secret at this stage unless assets have been put into a trust.

 

Challenging a Will

 

There are a number of ways in which Wills can be challenged, of which the following are the most common:

 

Validity - allegations of mental incapacity, allegations of undue influence,  improperly executed Wills, fraud.

 

Inheritance Act claims –  typically, claims from people who had a legitimate expectation of receiving something e.g. spouses and children.  Even adult children can now bring a claim, given the right circumstances.  There are strict time limits applicable here, so caution is needed.  Generally speaking, claims must be issued within six months of the grant of probate (or, in the case of an intestacy, letters of administration).

 

Related problems include concerns about the honesty of the executors or administrators, or more commonly the failure of executors and administrators to administer the estate.  Executors have to act unanimously - often they disagree.  In addition, there may be negligence claims against the solicitors or legal advisers responsible for drawing up the Will.

 

Whatever the issue, our specialist solicitors can assist in guiding you through this complicated and sensitive area of law. 

 

 

For more information please contact:
Bells Solicitors Limited.   Registered in England and Wales no. 07827988.   Authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.   SRA number 569030.   VAT registration number 137595285