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.