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Expert advice from will and probate dispute lawyers

In the UK, a person has the right to give their estate to whomever they wish, however surprising those wishes may be.. But if you suspect the will doesn’t reflect the true intentions of the person making the will (the ‘testator’), or the will hasn’t been formally put in place (‘executed’) correctly, it may be invalid and able to be contested.

Contentious Probate is an ever-growing area of law. The number of claims issued in the High Court relating to probate disputes rose from 227 in 2016 to 446 in 2020. This only scratches the surface though. Far more claims are started but never reach the stage of being issued at court. Despite the growing numbers though, contentious probate is still a specialist area of the law that few firms really understand. If you believe you have grounds to contest a will, we strongly advise you to seek expert legal advice early on.

Based in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, but acting for clients all over England and Wales, we specialise in advising a diverse client base on a wide range of issues, including :

  • Investigations and claims relating to the validity of wills for reasons including mental capacity, undue influence and fraud.
  • Applications to remove executors where they fail to act in the best interest of the beneficiaries.
  • Claims relating to breach of trust and of constructive and resulting trusts in respect of property.
  • Claims for reasonable financial provision from an estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. 
  • Proprietary and Promissory Estoppel claims, where a will fails to accord with a promise that was previously given by the testator. 
  • Applications to Court for Beddoe orders to indemnify executors against personal costs orders.

Your first consultation is free, no matter how long it takes, so that we can get to understand your situation.

The experience of our team, combined with specialist expertise in the intricacies of contentious probate law, means we will give you the best possible strategy for pursuing and protecting your interests.

Our team is headed by Adrian Lyon, one of only a small numberof lawyers to hold the Association of Contentious Trusts and Probate Specialists qualification.

The types of will and probate disputes we can help you with

Validity of Will Disputes

We specialise in pursuing and defending claims against the validity of a will. People are living longer and are making wills later in life. When someone was expecting to inherit assets or proerty and they do not, they will often question whether the testator had the mental capacity to make their will.

They question whether the testator knew what they were doing; and whether they had any disorder of the mind that perverted their sense of right. It is important that the testator has mental capacity to make a Will.

There can also be questions of undue influence; did the testator make the will out of their own free choice, or were they pruessured into doing so by somebody else? With estates worth more than they used to be, the risk of people placing undue pressure on a testator to influence the content of their will is increasing.

Removal of executors

The essential role of an executor is to collect in the assets of the deceased, pay out the deceased’s liabilities and then distribute the estate to the beneficiaries in accordance with the last will. Sometimes, however, things go wrong. An executor might delay in carrying out their role. They might also be a beneficiary as well as an executor and attempt to favour themselves over the other beneficiaries. They may make a mistake or cause loss to the estate or its beneficiaries. There may be more than one executor, who disagree with each other about how the estate should be dealt with. We help both executors and beneficiaries with; negotiation to explore whether any disputes or concerns can be resolved at an early stage; issue of court claims to seek the removal of executors; advice upon suitable replacement executors, including professional executors; and claims against executors for financial losses caused to the estate and its beneficiaries.

Claims for financial provision from an estate

Sometimes, a will (or an intestacy, if there was no will) does not leave sufficient provision for a family member or person close to the deceased. For example, a cohabitee may not be given anywhere to live. A child may be cut out when they need money for their maintenance. A spouse may not be given enough to sufficiently continue their standard of living.

The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 allows certain classes of people to make claims against the estate when it fails to make reasonable financial provision for them. Claimants must proceed promptly though – they only have six months from the date of a Grant of Probate in which to issue court proceedings.

We have significant experience and expertise bringing and defending claims for provision from an estate. We can help with; considering whether a client falls into one of the categories of people who can make a claim; advising what level of award they might expect to receive from the estate; seeking an award from the estate at an early stage without the need for court proceedings; issuing court proceedings if necessary; negotiating, including at mediation if appropriate; and defending any claims brought against an estate by others.

Recent examples of our contentious will and probate dispute work

  • Negotiated a substantial share of an estate where the testaor was alleged to have changed their will to cut the client out based on a false allegation against them.
  • Defended a claim that a will was invalid due to undue influence placed on the testator; resisting arguments that would have resulted in the client losing their inheritance under the will.
  • Advancing claims that a will was invalid based on lack of mental capacity, including seeking explanations from the will-writer, witness evidence and medical records.
  • Advancing claims that a will was defective due to failure by the will-writer to understand and iplement the instructions of the testator.
  • Bringing a claim for the removal of an executor where they failed to progress the administration of an estate, obtaining and Order that the executor be removed and receiving a significant costs order in favour of our client.
  •  Defending a claim seeking the removal of an executor where the executors had fallen out, advising as to options to secure the effective administration of the estate. Successfully bringing a substantial claim relating to a wealthy farming estate on behalf disappointed family members.
  •  Obtaining a share of an estate for a cohabitee who was left with nothing after her partner died without making a will, ensuring that she had sufficient resource for the remainder of her life, including provision for her housing needs.
  •  Defending claims against the beneficiaries of an estate by a disappointed family member, resulting in an agreed settlement that preserved the vast majority of the estate for the beneficiaries.

How we work

We specialise in pursuing and defending claims against the validity of a will. This includes speaking to witnesses to obtain evidence; obtaining and analysing medical records and working with medical experts where appropriate to interogate those records; issuing or defending court proceedings against the validity of the will, and settling disputes.

Everything we talk about throughout the time we spend working together will always be totally confidential.

Offering expert advice and guidance, we will recommend a path that helps you take control of the situation and leads to a resolution that works for the situation you find yourself in.

Whatever your reason for coming to us, our first step is always to listen with patience so that we understand what has happened before and what you want to happen next. Rest assured that there are very few stories that we have not heard before or challenges that we haven’t previously overcome.

Using our knowledge and experience we guarantee that we will be able to give you a range of options, with a detailed overview of the likely process, outcomes, timescales and costs.

The recommendations we make will always be specific to you, so whether you are dealing with issues of children, finances, property, or something else, our family team will help you come up with a plan that works.

Our team

Ranked in legal directories as among the best will and probate dispute teams in our area, we have years’ experience in supporting families, individuals and trusts to secure the best possible outcome.

The team is led by Adrian Lyon, a contentious probate expert. He is a full member of the Association of Contentious Trusts and Probate Specialists (ACTAPS), one of only a small number of people to hold this qualification.

We pride ourselves on our technical expertise in this area of law and always work with you to achieve pragmatic and cost-effective solutions.

Our fees and costs

Costs are an important factor, and we are upfront as to what costs you might expect to incur.

Our first meeting is free of charge, with no obligation. In that meeting, or shortly afterwards, we will then let you know the costs of both the initial steps required to move matters forward, and the potential overall costs in a worst case scenario.

In appropriate cases, it may be possible to enter into a “no win, no fee” agreement. However, this requires an assessment of your case and sometimes a “no win, no fee” agreement is not appropriate.

Lincoln

Adrian Lyon | Solicitor | Will and Probate disputes | Langleys

Adrian Lyon

Solicitor

01522 508 747

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