Contentious Probate & Will Disputes
Contentious probate & Will Disputes – Are you upset that you have been left out of the Will of a loved one, and you think you should have been provided for? Are you thinking about contesting the Will? Worried about how you will pay solicitors’ fees?
Don’t worry, Geoffrey Lurie Solicitors Newcastle are very pleased to announce we are now able to act for our clients in contentious probate matters on a No Win No Fee basis. This means you will not have to pay anything if you lose your claim, and you will only pay our charges if you win.
What Is Contentious Probate?
Contentious probate is where there is a disagreement about the distribution of a loved one’s estate after they have passed away. For example, you may have concerns how the Will was made, or you may think you have been unfairly cut out a Will.
If you wish to contest a Will, you should ask the Probate Registry to enter what is called a ‘caveat’ in the register, to stop probate from going ahead. This means no-one will be able to take control of the estate until the dispute is resolved.
Geoffrey Lurie contentious probate solicitors Newcastle are here to help you with the investigating, proving and sometimes disputing the validity of what may appear to be the deceased’s last and valid Will. In some circumstances, we can help you pursue a claim where there is no Will.
A Grant of Probate is the official proving of the Will at the Land Registry.
Once the Probate Registry has validated the Will, a court-sealed document called a Grant of Probate will be produced. The Probate Registry may alternatively issue a Grant of Letters of Administration (if the deceased died without leaving a Will) or Letters of Administration with the Will annexed (if the deceased executed a Will but the executors have died or are not willing to act).
The generic term for all three documents is a Grant of Representation.
Funding Your Contentious Probate Matter
We have a variety of funding options available. We are delighted that we can now act for you in Contentious Probate and Disputed Will matters on a NO WIN NO FEE basis. This means we will not charge you for our services if you lose your claim, and you will only pay our charges if you win.
For those cases which may not be suitable for No Win No Fee agreements, we can also act for you on a deferred costs basis.This means your legal costs can be paid from the estate assets and you will not have to pay any legal fees until the estate assets have been collected.
We understand the difficult financial hardships that you may face in a contentious probate or disputed will matter. This why we are now offering these new funding options. Although not all cases are suitable for our No Win No Fee option, we are always happy to consider potential No win No fee claims in our free initial advice session.
We are specialist Contentious Probate Solicitors Newcastle upon Tyne with expertise in probate and litigation. We are committed to getting the best results for our Clients. If someone close to you has died, and you feel you have not been adequately provided for in their Will, please do pick up the phone and speak to us.
We would be happy to see you for a free initial advice session. At the free advice session we will give you some options to help you to make a decision what to do. We are very experienced and can help you put things in perspective at a difficult time.
If you wish to have a chat with us, please feel free to give us a call on 0191 466 1444 (out of normal office hours please telephone 0191 466 1333) and ask to speak to one of our expert solicitors, James Burnett or Amanda Lipman or email to email@example.com
Should You Contest This Will?
The majority of Contentious Probate and Will Dispute matters fall into the following areas:-
All Wills must comply with the Wills Act 1837 . There are a number of requirements for a valid Will:
- it must be in writing and signed by the testator (the person who makes the Will),
- it must be witnessed by two witnesses (neither can be a beneficiary), both present at the same time.
- If the testator is unable to write, someone else can sign the Will on their behalf but only in their presence and only if directed by them.
It is essential that both witnesses were there at the time the testator signed the Will. Disputes can come about relating to the execution of a Will. A Will can be declared invalid if you can prove that one or both witnesses could not possibly have been there, and in fact they signed it later or even before the testator signed.
The Testator Was Pressured to Make the Will (Undue Influence)
If a person was pressured by another into making or changing a Will, it may not be valid. You may be concerned, for example, that someone had forced or tricked the testator into changing their Will. Although it is acceptable for an individual to be influenced by others when making a Will, if you consider their influence was “undue” then their Will may be challenged.
Cases of undue influence can involve second or subsequent marriages – particularly if there is a significant age gap or the new spouse married the testator shortly before their death.
Undue influence cases can also involve distant relatives or past friends who suddenly re-enter the life of the testator at a financially ‘convenient’ time.
Paid or volunteer carers who receive a large bequest despite knowing the testator only a short time, can also be viewed with suspicion by family members who had been expecting to inherit.
However, these are not easy claims. Cases based on undue influence require a high burden of proof – to the extent that there could be no other reasonable explanation for a testator’s decision to have suddenly changed their Will.
Where a Dependent, or Some Other Potential Beneficiary, Was Inadequately Provided For
If you were financially dependent on the deceased before he or she died, you may be able to make a claim against the estate.
In these cases the time limit for making the claim is very limited – just 6 months from when the Grant of Probate is issued. To make a claim you must fall into one of the categories under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975. Where reasonable financial provision has not been made, the Inheritance Act gives power to the Court to vary the distribution of the estate for certain family members and dependents.
Who Can Make an Inheritance Act Claim?
- The spouse/civil partner of the deceased;
- the former spouse/civil partner of the deceased who has not remarried or entered into a further civil partnership;
- living with the deceased for at least two years prior to their death;
- the deceased’s child (which includes an adult child);
- treated as the deceased’s ‘child’ (for example, but not necessarily, adopted, fostered or a step-child); or
- being “maintained” by the deceased.
Lack of Capacity to Make a Will
This is one of the most common ways of challenging a Will. Perhaps the testator revised their Will in their later years, when their mental faculties were not as sharp as they were when they were younger. Was the testator who made the Will fully capable of making decisions?
The person executing the document must be of sound mind and fully aware of the meaning of the document. Provided that the person is of sound mind at the time of execution, subsequent mental illness or senility will not affect the validity of the Will.
Each case is different, and a Will is not necessarily invalid simply because the person had dementia or other illness. The leading case of Banks v Goodfellow (1870) established that in order for a Will to be valid, the person making the Will must have been of sound mind and had testamentary capacity at the time the Will was made.
To have mental capacity to make a Will the testator must be aware of the nature of their actions, they must understand that they are making a Will and know the full extent of the property they are bequeathing.
Construction And Rectification Claims
A Will can be contested if it misrepresents the testator’s wishes because it has been drafted negligently.
Clerical errors are one possible reason, but this type of claim can also cover Wills which have been worded badly so that the terms of the bequests are unclear.
Section 20 of the Administration of Justice Act 1982 is the key legislation for Will rectification claims.
Get Expert Advice From Our Contentious Probate Solicitors
Losing a loved one is one of the most difficult things any of us have to go through and the grieving process can be made even more difficult when there is a dispute over a Will. If you feel you have been unfairly left out of a Will, not been adequately provided for or you are acting as an executor and somebody else is contesting the Will, we at Geoffrey Lurie Solicitors are here to help you. If you would like to discuss a matter that concerns you about the Will or the estate of a person who has recently died, then please telephone to speak to James Burnett on 0191 466 1444, or email James.Burnett@geoffreylurie.com for a free, no obligation chat.
WHY CHOOSE GEOFFREY LURIE SOLICITORS NEWCASTLE ?
- We have expertise in both probate, litigation and contentious probate.
- We deal with your matter sensitively
- We are committed to getting the best results for our Clients who are contesting a Will, or bringing or defending an Inheritance Act claim.
- We are results focussed, in over 90% of cases, we are able to settle disputes without the need for a trial. This therefor saves on costs, stress and time