Contentious probate matters usually involve family disputes over a will or trust – but may also involve disputes with executors, trustees or a Personal Representative.
Social changes involving more extended families and an ageing population may be fuelling the number of contentious probate matters – but often a dispute occurs when a family member dies intestate (without having made a will) or the will bequeaths the estate to a party who is not a family member (eg a charity or carer) and denies families what they feel is their rightful inheritance.
Inheritance in England and Wales is covered by the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. The Civil Partnership Act 2004 also covers who can claim from an estate in contentious probate disputes.
Under the Inheritance Act 1975, an individual can claim to become the beneficiary of a will (eg if a parent has excluded a child from their will) – or can claim a greater share of an estate.
Those who are entitled to make a claim under the Act include:
Disputes over inheritance and a family member’s or partner’s will may appear to be relatively minor – but contentious probate matters, if not dealt with effectively at any early stage, can soon escalate and prove costly, reducing greatly the value an estate as a result of legal fees.
Duncan Lewis litigation solicitors can advise at any stage of a contentious probate matter – and Duncan Lewis has a highly successful family law department specialising in wills and trusts and Court of Protection matters in cases where a family member lacks testamentary capacity.
Detailed information and a witness statement are needed in any claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 – and an application under the Act must be made within six months of probate/letters of administration being granted. An application cannot be made once a claimant has died him or herself – and they must be alive when a claim is decided.
Many contentious probate disputes rest on what the law calls “reasonable financial provision” – but Duncan Lewis can also advise on property matters, allegations of fraud and undue influence, disputed Power of Attorney drafting errors in wills and professional negligence in contentious probate cases.
Duncan Lewis advises on family law under UK law and Islamic law.
For expert legal advice on Contentious Probate Disputes, call Duncan Lewis Civil Litigation Solicitors on 0333 772 0409.