Contentious Probate Solicitor
What Does a Contentious Probate Solicitor Do?
Probate solicitors are legal professionals well-known for their roles in the administration of wills and estates. However, there is a specialised branch within this legal field – contentious probate solicitors. While many people are familiar with the general responsibilities of probate solicitors, the services offered by contentious probate solicitors remain shrouded in mystery for many.
Losing a loved one is an emotionally challenging experience, and it can become even more taxing when disputes or concerns arise regarding the management of the deceased’s estate. In such instances, contentious probate solicitors play a pivotal role in providing legal guidance and resolutions.
Understanding Contentious Probate Solicitors
Contentious probate solicitors are legal professionals specialising in resolving disputes and conflicts related to wills, trusts, and estates. Unlike traditional probate solicitors, who primarily focus on the straightforward administration of an estate according to the deceased’s wishes, contentious probate solicitors step in when disagreements or disputes arise among beneficiaries, family members, or other parties involved in the estate.
Services Offered by Contentious Probate Solicitors
Contentious probate solicitors provide a range of essential services, including:
- Handling Disagreements Between Beneficiaries: Contentious probate solicitors mediate and negotiate disputes that may arise among beneficiaries, ensuring a fair distribution of assets.
- Dealing with Allegations of Estate Mismanagement: If there are concerns about the proper management of the deceased’s estate, contentious probate solicitors investigate and take legal action as necessary to rectify any mismanagement.
- Resolving Disputes Regarding Asset Valuation: Valuation disputes often arise when beneficiaries disagree on the worth of estate assets. Contentious probate solicitors work to determine accurate valuations to ensure equitable distribution.
- Interpreting the Will: In cases where the language or provisions in the will are ambiguous, contentious probate solicitors assist in interpreting the deceased’s intentions.
Additionally, contentious probate solicitors could aid in contesting probate if the deceased passed away without a will, allowing individuals to challenge the distribution of assets based on legal grounds.
Who Can Contest a Will?
Understanding who may contest a will is crucial. Typically, individuals with a beneficial interest or potential beneficial interest in the deceased’s estate can contest a will if they believe they have a valid claim. The following parties often contest wills:
- Surviving Spouses: Widows and widowers can contest a will if they feel they were inadequately provided for in the estate.
- Children: Biological and adopted children may challenge a will if they believe they were unfairly treated or left out.
- Cohabitees: Individuals who lived with the deceased but were not married may contest a will if they can demonstrate financial dependency or shared assets.
- Dependents: This category encompasses adult children who relied on the deceased’s financial support and children treated as part of the family, such as stepchildren.
Grounds for Contesting a Will
Contesting a will is a legal process that requires valid grounds for dispute. Common reasons for contesting a will include:
- Lack of Testamentary Capacity: The person creating the will must be of sound mind, fully aware of their estate and assets, and understand their choices regarding beneficiaries.
- Lack of Due Execution: Wills must be signed in the presence of at least two witnesses who attest to the signing. If proper execution procedures were not followed, a claim of lack of execution can be raised.
- Undue Coercion: When the person making the will has been manipulated into accepting unfair or invalid terms, allegations of undue coercion may be raised. Providing substantial evidence is essential to support such claims.
- Fraud: If there is evidence that the will has been forged, such as someone else signing the document to benefit from favourable terms, the will can be invalidated on the grounds of fraud.
- Lack of Provision for Family and Dependents: The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 allows certain individuals to contest a will if they believe reasonable financial provision has not been made for them. This situation can arise when someone is entirely left out of a will, receives insufficient provision, or the deceased died without a will, and the individual is not provided for under intestacy rules.
Time Limit for Contentious Probate Claims
The time limits for contentious probate claims can vary depending on the type of claim being made. In most cases, probate claims must be filed within 12 years of the date the individual becomes entitled to a share of the deceased’s estate. However, it’s essential to note that some claims may have considerably shorter time limits. Seeking specialised legal advice promptly is crucial to avoid missing key dates and losing the opportunity to contest a will or resolve estate disputes effectively.
Information About a Deceased’s Estate
Beneficiaries to a will have specific rights regarding the information they are entitled to receive about the deceased’s estate:
- Generally, beneficiaries can request and should be provided with estate accounts or detailed accounts of their interest and entitlement in the estate. Additionally, if a will exists, beneficiaries have the right to receive a copy.
- In cases where an executor refuses to provide estate accounts, beneficiaries may have recourse to the courts. They can apply for an “inventory and account,” compelling the executor to provide a detailed schedule of all estate assets, along with a record of their actions and dealings with those assets.
Expertise of Contentious Probate Solicitors
Our team of contentious probate solicitors specialises in efficiently and effectively resolving will disputes. We represent a diverse range of clients, including beneficiaries, family members, stepchildren, non-married partners, executors, and administrators.
Whether you have concerns about the legitimacy of a will, the administration of an estate or trust, or you need to defend against another party’s claim, our experienced contentious probate team is equipped to provide expert guidance and support. We navigate the intricacies of contentious probate law to ensure that our clients’ interests are protected and that disputes are resolved with fairness and efficiency.