Contentious Probate Solicitors
Wills and inheritance disputes (widely known as contentious probate) can be a particularly complex and sensitive legal area. Such disputes can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed and that you were not adequately provided for in terms of any potential inheritance. You may also have concerns regarding the validity of a Will following the death of a loved one. In such scenarios, our contentious probate solicitors are able to provide expert advice.
What is contentious probate?
Contentious probate refers to any dispute arising from how a person’s estate should be distributed after they die. This includes their money, property, assets and all possessions.
Contentious probate also includes disputes arising from the preparation of a Will, either in respect of challenging the validity of a Will or defending someone who is trying to challenge the contents of the Will. Issues also arise in relation to concerns over duress or undue influence placed on the person who died, whilst in the process of preparing their Will.
Equally, if a person dies without a Will, their estate is distributed under the Intestacy Rules. This too is also capable of challenge.
What are the Intestacy Rules?
When a person dies without making a Will, their estate is distributed under the Intestacy Rules. There is a strict order of who inherits the estate, governed by law. This usually means that only direct family members are able to inherit. Unfortunately, this leads to complications and situations where there are multiple marriages, divorces, adult dependants, unmarried partners and cohabitees. Financial dependants who do not inherit pursuant to the Intestacy Rules may be able to make a claim.
Claims under the Inheritance Act 1975
You may be able to make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. The law allows close family members and dependants to apply to the court for reasonable financial provision from the estate where there is adequate provision in the Will. Here, the Will remains in place but the law protects individuals in certain circumstances. The court’s award will depend very much upon the individual facts of each case.
There are other circumstances in which an individual can claim under the Inheritance Act. These include where the deceased did not leave a Will and the estate is distributed under the Intestacy Rules but an individual was a dependant but not properly provided for under the Rules. Also, if an individual relied on the deceased’s assurance of property/assets and acted to his or her detriment as a result, the courts have jurisdiction to enforce the promise under certain circumstances.
Example cases are:
In the case of Ilott v Blue Cross & Others, the deceased expressly excluded her estranged adult daughter, Mrs Ilott, from any benefit under her will by a written letter of wishes. Instead, she chose to leave her estate of £486,000 to three animal charities of her choice.
Mrs Ilott made a claim for financial provision from her mother’s estate, and on appeal, she was awarded £143,000 and a further £20,000 for ongoing maintenance. On further appeal to the Supreme Court, this decision was overturned and the Court reduced the award to Mrs Ilott to £50,000.
In the recent case of Gee v Gee, the Court found in favour of a son who was cut out of a promised inheritance of farmland worth in the region of £8m. John worked on his father’s farm since the 1970s for low pay, and gave up his own career, in reliance on his father’s promise that he would receive “the lion’s share” of the farm. Before he died, the father transferred the asset to his other son, Robert in 2014. Despite this, the Court awarded John a 52% controlling interest in the farm, and 48% interest in the land.
Why choose our contentious probate solicitors?
Edwards Duthie Shamash recognise and appreciate that handling Wills and inheritance disputes can be highly sensitive and must be handled with care. Our contentious probate solicitors assist you in tailoring our advice and assistance to your exact needs and requirements.
Whether you are a beneficiary, executor or trustee, or not a party to the Will, or no Will has been prepared, and if you have any doubts in relation to the deceased’s estate, then do not hesitate to contact Edwards Duthie Shamash on 0208 514 9000 and speak to our specialist contentious probate solicitors for an initial telephone consultation.