Will writing

A guide to contesting a will

Losing a loved one is always a difficult time for any family so any disputes about the inheritance can be especially difficult to deal with. Our contentious probate lawyers specialise in resolving these disputes in an efficient and sympathetic manner.

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What is contentious probate?

Contentious probate occurs when there is a dispute concerning the estate of someone who has died. It usually relates to the distribution of the estate.

There are a number of ways in which a claim can be brought, such as challenging the will, for example if:

  • there were procedural errors in its preparation.
  • it can be shown that the owner of will did not have sufficient mental capacity at the time the document was written.
  • it can be shown that the owner of the will was under the undue influence of a third party.

The most common type of cases however, are ones brought pursuant to the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, known as disappointed beneficiary claims.

Who can bring a disappointed beneficiary claim?

Certain types of people can bring a disappointed beneficiary claim if they have not inherited or have not been left as much as they need, either under a will or as a result of the intestacy rules:

  • The spouse or civil partner of the deceased;
  • The former spouse or civil partner of the deceased (with some exceptions);
  • A cohabitee (someone who continuously lived with the deceased for two years or more prior to death);
  • A child of the deceased (even if they are now an adult);
  • Someone who was treated as a child of the deceased; or
  • Someone who was "maintained" by the deceased.

What can I claim for? What is the award?

If a claim is successful, the court will be able to vary the distribution of the estate to make an award to the successful claimant.

To define the award, the court will consider factors such as the size and nature of the estate, the financial means and need of the person claiming and the other beneficiaries.

Claimant is spouse or civil partner: reasonable in all the circumstances.

All other claimants: reasonable financial provision required for the maintenance of the claimant, if the estate is big enough to accommodate such an award.

How fast do I have to claim?

There is a strict time limit of six months from the issue of the grant of representation or probate in which a disappointed beneficiary claim must be made. It is possible to extend this deadline in exceptional circumstances.

Any delay could prevent a claim from being brought. We recommend you seek legal advice as soon as possible.

Why work with a lawyer?

There are strict and complex procedures in place for defending against a disappointed beneficiary claim. If you are not familiar with these procedures, it is essential that you choose to work with a law firm with extensive and proven experience.

At Slater and Gordon, we understand that the most important thing for clients is the early resolution of disputes on acceptable financial terms. We want to go a step further and deliver clear and customer-focused advice. So if you have any questions, feel free to contact us on freephone 0330 107 6495.

Costs of legal advice

At Slater and Gordon, we want to avoid hidden fees and unexpected costs.  We will provide you with a fixed quote before starting our services. That way, you know exactly what you'll be paying and what services you'll receive.  Our fees don't change unless your instructions do.

Contact us now on freephone 0330 107 6495.

Case studies

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