Probate is the legal process of administering a deceased person’s estate and can be a straightforward process when a will is clear, undisputed, and properly executed.
However, in some cases, probate can become contentious.
Contentious probate refers to situations where disputes arise over the distribution of assets, the validity of a will, or the management of an estate.
How can we help?
Contentious probate can be complex and emotionally taxing, particularly after the loss of a loved one. We can help resolve disputes that surround the administration of an estate.
Here are some of the circumstances in which we can assist you:
Contested Will: One of the most common reasons for contentious probate is when the validity of the deceased person’s (also known as testator) will is questioned. This can occur for various reasons, such as;
- Undue influence: where a person exerts pressure on the testator to make a decision or take an action that they would not have otherwise made freely and willingly.
- Lack of mental capacity: The testator needs to be able to understand what they are doing at the time of making the will.
- Knowledge and approval: where it can be shown that the testator did not understand or approve the content of the will.
- Want of due execution: where a will has not complied with certain formalities.
- Suspicion of fraud or forgery: where there has been intentional deception, and the will therefore does not reflect the testator’s true intention.
Inheritance Disputes: Family members or beneficiaries may disagree about the distribution of assets outlined in the will. This can lead to disputes over who should receive what, especially when the will is not clear or when changes were made late in the testator’s life.
Intestacy Disputes: In cases where there is no valid will (intestacy), disputes can arise over who should inherit the deceased’s assets. This can be particularly challenging in blended families or when there are multiple potential heirs.
Executor Disputes: Conflicts can also arise between executors (individuals responsible for administering the estate) and beneficiaries. Disagreements may occur over how the estate should be managed, the sale of assets, or decisions related to debt repayment and taxes.
In such scenarios, we can provide advice, facilitate mediation, and assist in finding a practical resolution to the dispute. Should the matter proceed to Court, we will provide the necessary advice and representation required.
Frequently Asked Questions:
- What is a Grant of Probate?
A Grant of Probate is a legal document which enables an executor to legally administer and distribute a deceased person’s assets to beneficiaries.
The Probate Registry is responsible for issuing a Grant of Probate.
If a deceased person does not leave behind a valid will, a Grant of Letters of Administration is required instead.
- Can I stop a Grant of Probate being issued if I believe it is being issued to the wrong person?
You can lodge a ‘caveat’ with the Probate Registry against the estate of the deceased. This must be done urgently and with good reason to prevent the Grant of Probate from going ahead.
- How will I Know if a Grant of Probate has been issued?
If the executor has not informed you, you can use the Government’s search function to find out.
- Can an Executor be removed?
Yes, if there are legal grounds and the Court believes it is in the best interests of the deceased and their beneficiaries to do so.
- Am I entitled to view or obtain a copy of the Will?
Only the executors have a right to this, however they can disclose it if they wish.
Once a grant of probate has been issued, the Will is available to view on the probate registry for a fee.
- Is there a time limit for making a claim?
It is prudent to take action as early as possible.
Most claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 must be filed within six months of the grant of probate being issued, but exceptions can apply.
- Can my claim be resolved without taking the matter to Court?
Yes, it may be possible to resolve your dispute by way of negotiation or mediation. This allows the opportunity for a mutually beneficial agreement with no court involvement necessary.