Will Disputes Solicitors
If you’re involved in a dispute concerning wills, trusts or probate, we can help you, whether you are a beneficiary, an executor or trustee, or someone who feels they have not been provided for either within a will or trust.
Alternatively, if your loved one did not leave a will and, as a result, you have been excluded from their estate, it may be possible to make a claim on their estate.
JMW’s team of experienced will disputes solicitors provides expert legal advice and practical support to parties involved in disputes concerning wills, trusts and inheritance. We are here to make the probate process and matters of contentious probate as stress-free as possible during what is already a difficult time.
If you are looking for a professional and understanding service for assistance in a dispute concerning someone’s estate, get in touch with JMW’s dedicated team today. Call us on 0345 872 6666 or fill in our online enquiry form to request a callback.
Why Should I Seek Legal Advice for a Wills Dispute?
Contentious probate is an area of law that involves disputes concerning the estate of someone who has passed away, and requires in-depth knowledge to handle matters effectively. There are a number of disputes that can arise and for a number of reasons, including but not limited to:
While there are many law firms that assist with drafting wills and the administration of the estate upon death, it is important to note that where a dispute arises over the estate of someone who has passed away, it is a separate and distinct area of law and has its own regulations and procedures should be applied.
For that reason, it would be wise to engage a specialist will disputes (also known as contentious probate) solicitor so that they are familiar with the rules and procedures that are specific to this area of litigation.
If you are seeking legal assistance with a contentious dispute over the estate of someone who has passed away, it is important to make sure that you are seeking specialised legal advice from professionals with experience in this area. At JMW, there is a contentious probate team has a wealth of experience dealing with disputes of this nature.
View video transcript
I'm Alison Perry. I'm a partner at JMW and Head of the Contentious Trusts and Probate team here. There are several grounds on which you could contest a will. These are lack of required testamentary capacity, lack of knowledge and approval of the contents of the will, undue influence.
A lack of the formalities required for will writing and also fraudulent calumny, which is where the testator's mind has been poisoned in order to leave his estate in a different manner than he would otherwise have done so. In order to make a will, you need what is known as testamentary capacity. It can be very difficult to show that there was undue influence in the creation of a will because you have to show that somebody was actually coerced into making it. In order to look at evidence in this field, we look at witnesses who may have known the deceased well, and we would also look to obtain medical accord to see whether there are any relevant entries in those notes that might indicate their vulnerability to that influence.
There are a number of people who may be able to claim for reasonable provision out of somebody's estate. This is a spouse or civil partner, a former spouse or civil partner as long as they've not remarried or formed another civil partnership, a child of the deceased, somebody who was treated as a child of the deceased, somebody who was immediately before the deceased death, maintained by the deceased by the holy partly and somebody who was living in the same household as the deceased as husband or wife or civil partners for at least two years before their death. Where it's a spouse or a civil partner.
The provision you might expect is what is reasonably required for your maintenance in all circumstances.
For anybody else you will see to claim, then the test is what is reasonably required for their maintenance.
Certain claims have a time limit of six months from the date of the grant of probates. It's always advisable to bring it as early as possible because there will be more evidence you can gather sooner to the event.
Where a claim concludes with a court hearing at trial, then usually the position is that the loser will be able to pay the winner's costs. The court however has ultimate discretion over who pays the cost and can make a different order if it feels the appropriate to do so. There are several ways in which you could resolve a dispute without going to court. The most common of these are negotiation between the parties and mediation. To contest a will, it's usually sensible to get a solicitor's advice from the outset. These claims can be quite complex and emotionally draining. And the solicitor will talk you through your concerns and be able to have very much firmly in mind what you want to achieve out of it.
How JMW Can Help
Our contentious probate solicitors are experienced at bringing and defending claims on behalf of individuals, families and professionals, including business leaders, entrepreneurs, sports personalities and medical professionals. In addition, we offer advice to charities should a dispute arise when they are beneficiaries within a will or trust.
We act sensitively and pragmatically to ensure your needs are met efficiently and with discretion. The team is renowned for its professionalism, knowledge and expertise, and we work closely with our colleagues across our Wills, Trusts and Estate Planning and Court of Protection departments to ensure that we provide you with specialist advice tailored to your specific circumstances.
Each contentious probate matter is allocated a solicitor and a trainee or paralegal to ensure that you always have a point of contact throughout proceedings and the case is appropriately managed and supervised.
Settlement at mediation in respect of a claim brought by a cohabitant of the deceased
Undue influence claim settled at mediation
Successful removal of executors of a will for failing to act in the best interests of an Estate
Successful resolution of two claims on behalf of a disinherited daughter against the Estate of her late father
Solicitors on the wills disputes team have received professional accreditation from numerous organisations and associations including:
- The Legal 500 - Who said that JMW are a “great team. Good legal knowledge and commercial approach to litigation. The team moves very quickly, and is very calm and knowledgeable.”
- Chambers and Partners High Net Worth Guide - JMW’s wills disputes team is described by an interviewee as a “professional, modern firm delivering expert advice”. Alison Parry is described as “one of the best litigators in Manchester” and her “strengths are her obvious expertise, her capability and her empathy”.
- The Association of Contentious Trusts and Probate Specialists (ACTAPS) - Membership to this association requires solicitors firms to meet certain criteria based on their performance in this line of work.
- Society of Trusts and Estate Practitioners (STEP) - Membership of STEP demonstrates our commitment to high professional standards and continued professional development, building the confidence, respect and trust of our clients.
- Special Interest Group for Contentious Trusts and Estates - Members of this group are focused on international trust and estate law while promoting best practice in the handling of contentious trust and estate disputes and trustee litigation.
How Much Does it Cost?
The cost of a will dispute varies from case to case, depending on time, the complexity of the dispute and whether or not you have to go to court. A dispute can be settled at any time during mediation or by any other means and a discussion can be held during any settlement discussions on how to split the costs between those involved.
If a dispute must go to court, a judge will decide how the costs will be paid. More information on potential costs orders can be seen here.
We can in certain circumstances work with you under a funding arrangement, including by way of a conditional or deferred fee. This assists with the management of your matter and there are systems in place to make sure monthly updates are provided in relation to the amount of time incurred and any payments, so that you can easily keep track of costs.
How Can I Cover the Cost of Handling a Dispute?
There are various ways that the cost of a claim could be covered, depending on your case. These include:
- Legal expenses insurance
- Conditional fee agreements (i.e. no win, no fee)
- Deferred fee agreements (i.e. payment on conclusion)
- Private monthly billing
- We understand that funds and assets may be tied up in the estate that is up for dispute, and in certain circumstances can be flexible with payments to ensure this is not another worry for you. We will discuss the different payment options available to you at the start of our instruction.
Your first consultation with us is free of charge, and there is no obligation to continue.
FAQs About Wills Disputes
Why is it important to make a will?
There can often be reluctance among family members to discuss plans and wishes for what will happen after someone dies. This can result in a lack of attention and planning regarding what will happen to someone’s assets when they pass away, and can sometimes lead to disputes following a person’s death.
In some cases, matters can turn contentious and can result in legal fees being incurred that, ultimately, reduce the inheritance that anyone will receive from the deceased’s estate.
Despite this, it is common that many individuals pass away leaving no will, which means that their assets are distributed in line with intestacy rules. While this does not always lead to disputes and may coincide with a deceased person’s wishes, there is a serious risk that this can result in a distribution of the deceased’s estate that may not have been intended or foreseen by the deceased. This may also not take into account all those who may have had an expectation of an inheritance or those who may have relied on or been dependent on the deceased during their lifetime.
Making a will is a simple step that can help to avoid a large amount of wasted time and money, as well as the distress it causes to loved ones who become embroiled in fighting over the estate of someone who has passed away. However, disputes can still arise where there is a will in place if there are issues with the circumstances in which it was created or if it does not make reasonable provision for those that it should.
Should you find yourself involved in a dispute over someone’s estate, please contact our experienced contentious probate solicitors who can assist by guiding you through the process and try to seek a resolution that is appropriate for your circumstances.
What can cause a contentious dispute?
The number of contested wills has risen substantially in recent years. There are a number of reasons why this number may be increasing, including:
- Complex family structures - divorce, remarriage, cohabitation and children from multiple relationships are all much more common, creating complex family structures and difficulty for a person making a will to take care of everyone or keep everyone happy.
- Lack of contact or estrangement - it is more common for families to live further apart, which can place a strain on relationships due to difficulties regarding both communication and contact, this can create scope for arguments and disputes between family members. For instance, if families are not seeing their relatives regularly, or feel neglected by their family, those relatives may find themselves left out of a will.
- Increased media coverage - individuals are more aware of their legal rights and the possibility of bringing a claim due to the increased coverage in the media. This can lead to an increased appetite for litigation where individuals are dissatisfied with the content of a will.
- Larger estates - house prices have increased in recent years, meaning the estate of a loved one can be larger and, as a result, individuals may be more likely to dispute the will as there is more at stake.
- Ageing population - an ageing population means that conditions that affect a person’s capacity to carry out certain tasks (such as making a will) or leave them vulnerable are more prevalent. This can mean wills are more susceptible to challenges over testamentary capacity or undue influence.
- Rise in ‘DIY’ wills - individuals are taking to writing wills themselves without legal advice or assistance, which can lead to disputes over the validity of the will.
Can I write my own will?
While it is possible to write a valid will without legal advice, any error can render the will invalid, or create ambiguity, which may result in a challenge to its validity and/or unnecessary fees and delays regarding the distribution of the estate. In addition to a financial loss, this can place a further emotional strain on the bereaved who must now deal with the fallout.
JMW offers an excellent and competitively priced will writing service to ensure that your wishes are met when you pass away, your family is provided for and your estate is protected.
Will I have to go to court?
Most disputes can be resolved by negotiation and discussion outside of court; however, in some cases, a court appearance may be required. At JMW, we understand that most people would prefer not to go to court, and we will always do everything we can to try and reach an agreement by mediation or other alternatives to court proceedings.
If your dispute does have to go to court to be resolved, we will support you throughout the entire process to help you achieve the best possible outcome with the minimum stress to you.
How long do I have to raise a wills dispute?
Depending on the type of claim that you are making, a claim may need to be started within six months of the grant of representation being issued.
In all cases, it is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible, so you stand the best chance of making a valid claim. Your solicitor will be able to advise based on your situation.