Contesting a Will or Inheritance

When a person dies, their estate is distributed under the terms of their Will or, if there is no Will, in a certain way as set out in law.

Sometimes, however, this results in relatives or loved ones suffering some form of financial as well as emotional hardship.  The rise in co-habitation and divorce rates, has resulted in people having more than one family unit, and this has meant that whether a person died with or without a Will, there is an increasing number of people not properly provided for.

For example, if a person dies without leaving a Will, if they are unmarried, their co-habitees or partners receive nothing, even if they have lived together for 50 years or more.

Often,  people may ‘leave out’ their children from a first marriage, particularly if the marriage has ended acrimoniously.

In cases such as these, it is possible to make a claim for financial provision out of a person’s estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act (1975).

Such cases are open to people who fall within certain categories and are subject to specific criteria.

For more information please see our factsheet. If you would like to discuss Will and Inheritance Disputes (sometimes referred to as Contentious Probate) then please contact:

Mary Butler, Partner and Head of  our Inheritance Disputes Team, on 0114 220 2185, [email protected];

John Breeze, Solicitor, on 0114 220 2188, [email protected];

or Katie Winslow, Legal Executive, on 0114 220 2198, [email protected]

Under a Trust or when dealing with a person’s  Estate, the assets in that trust or Estate are dealt with by a Trustee.  A Trustee's role is to manage the assets and to invest, distribute or otherwise deal with the assets as they are directed under the Will or trust.  They have a duty to the people who are to benefit under the Will or trust (often called beneficiaries)  to act properly and honestly in relation to those assets. Put simply, they are looking after assets which belong to other people and must treat them as such.

Occasionally, disputes can arise over whether the assets are being correctly managed and whether the Trustees or Executors are acting properly. 

Frequent problems which arise include :

  • Allegations that Trustees have not properly accounted for all of the assets;
  • Concerns that Trustees have favoured some beneficiaries over others;
  • Concerns that Trustees have acted in their own personal interests to the detriment of the beneficiaries;
  • Concerns that Trustees are unsuitable;
  • Concerns that Trustees are acting outside of their powers.

In such instances, it is often possible to resolve such disputes quickly and simply through negotiation.  In other cases, this is not possible and there is no alternative but to issue court proceedings, including a claim that the Trustees be removed.

Trustee disputes are often lengthy, complex and can be costly.  There is also a risk that if you are unsuccessful you will have to pay the other party’s costs.  It is therefore vital that expert legal advice is obtained before taking action.

For more information please see our factsheet or contact:

Mary Butler, Partner and Head of  our Inheritance Disputes Team, on 0114 220 2185, [email protected];

John Breeze, Solicitor, on 0114 220 2188, [email protected];

or Katie Winslow, Legal Executive, on 0114 220 2198, [email protected]

There is a legal presumption that a Will is valid if, on the face of it, it complies with all of the relevant legal requirements.

That presumption can, however, be overturned and a Will be declared invalid in certain circumstances.  Ordinarily, in order to establish that a Will is not valid, it must be demonstrated that:

  • The person making the Will did not know and approve the contents of the Will; or
  • The person making the Will lacked the necessary capacity to make a Will; or
  • The person making the Will was subject to duress; or
  • The person making the Will was subjected to undue influence; or
  • The will is fraudulent (i.e. the signature is forged).

To establish any of the above depends upon the specific details of each case and usually requires significant evidence from witnesses, family members, medical records and/or social services records to name but a few. 

Validity claims are usually highly contested and it is imperative that specialist legal advice is taken before taking any action.

For more information please see our factsheet or contact:

Mary Butler, Partner and Head of  our Inheritance Disputes Team, on 0114 220 2185, [email protected];

John Breeze, Solicitor, on 0114 220 2188, [email protected];

or Katie Winslow, Legal Executive, on 0114 220 2198, [email protected]

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