Contentious Probate

Contentious Probate Solicitors In London

Our lawyers specialise in advising in contentious probate matters. Our lawyers guide clients though sensitive and challenging issues taking prompt action to defend their clients interest. Read on to find out how you can contest a Will and what experience our lawyers have.

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  • “Far better value for money than many firms with more expensive addresses. Serious knowledge of the law and committed engagement with their clients.”

  • “Incredibly dedicated and committed to her clients. She can do both the non-contentious and contentious sides very, very well.”

What is Contentious Probate?

Contentious probate encompasses disputes around the administration of someone’s estate, whether or not there’s a Will. Our specialist probate litigation team is experienced in sensitively guiding clients through challenging issues, taking prompt action when necessary.

Issues might be raised by disgruntled beneficiaries, personal representatives, trustees or dependents relating to, for instance, mismanagement of the estate, claims against the estate or the interpretation of a Will or a Will trust document.

How Can Our Contentious Probate Solicitors Help?

Finding yourself involved in an estate dispute is likely to be difficult and distressing at a time when you may be grieving – and longing for normality. Our experienced probate litigation solicitors understand this: we take the time to understand the underlying issues and how we can help resolve the dispute.

Thankfully, most contentious probate matters are resolved outside court but if litigation becomes the only way forward to protect your interests, we would take prompt and aggressive action on your behalf.

 

Contact Our Contentious Probate Solicitors

For a free initial conversation call 020 7485 8811

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    • "I wish to thank you for your advice, efficiency and professionalism throughout which has been greatly appreciated."

      Client review

    • "I am proud to be a private client of Osbornes Solicitors LLP, a client of many years. I appreciate the swift and efficient work of the Private Client Department Team."

      Client

    • "Jan Atkinson, with her steely, steady, calming presence, instils confidence in the most highly-strung of us clients. With her masterful knowledge of the law, old and new, and its application, Jan can navigate through the most complex of cases to a successful end."

      Legal 500 2021

    • "I find Osbornes’ client-friendly approach welcoming and refreshing"

      Legal 500 2021

    • "A medium-sized London firm dealing with big litigation and doing it extremely well because of a depth of expertise and experience."

      Legal 500 2021

    • My family had the pleasure of Jan Atkinson working with us on the will and probate issues of [my mother's] estate in Camden and Ireland after she passed on last year. Jan and her assistant(s) offered us a fantastic service at a sad time.

      Client Review

    • "Jan Atkinson stands out for her wide-ranging knowledge and experience of estates; whatever problem you throw at her, she has seen it all before and is able to find a creative and sustainable solution. She has exceptional commitment to her clients and explores every avenue to find the best solution for them"

      Legal 500 2021 - Jan Atkinson

    • The team is very caring, experienced and detailed and was clear about the  next steps and offered very helpful advice and suggestions

      Legal 500

    • Jan Atkinson has extensive experience in private client matters, which underpins her excellent skills in the contentious probate area. Plus she is strong on international matters

      Legal 500 2020 - Jan Atkinson

    • A small but formidable team, punching above its weight. Jan Atkinson is a seasoned pro. Approachable but no push-over

      Legal 500 2020 - Jan Atkinson

    • "They are an outstanding firm to work with. They are consistently impressive in their work."

      Chambers UK

    • "Elspeth Neilson is very reliable and practical."

      The Legal 500

    • "The team frequently deals with cross-border estates for high–net-worth individuals."

      The Legal 500

    • "The team were extremely professional in putting my needs first. There was a joined-up approach to catering for the client, and all lawyers involved were briefed and constructive."

      Chambers UK

    • The situation was handled by your extremely competent, efficient hands - I would not hesitate to recommend Osbornes to others.

      Wills, Probate and Disputed Estate Client

    • "Service prompt and effective. I have absolute confidence in Maggie."

      Wills, Probate & Disputed Estates Client

    • I am happy with the service that I got and would recommend you to other potential clients.

      Wills, Probate & Disputed Estates Client

    • I found Osbornes always very helpful and efficient.

      Wills, Probate & Disputed Estates Client

    • We are very pleased with the services of Osbornes. Highly professional and through with close attention to detail.

      Wills, Probate & Disputed Estates Client

    • I would highly recommend Jan Atkinson in any probate matter and Osbornes Solicitors in any other legal matters.

      Wills, Probate & Disputed Estates Client

    • Jan Atkinson is a very proficient lady whom I would highly recommend to anyone involved in probates.

      Wills, Probate & Disputed Estates Client

    • Thanks for all your work and explaining everything so clearly. For any legal matters in the future I would not hesitate in instructing Osbornes.

      Wills, Probate & Disputed Estates Client

    • We have found your service to date as the most informative we have come across.

      Wills, Probate & Disputed Estates Client

    • Osbornes Solicitors always responded promptly to any request for information I had.

      Wills, Probate & Disputed Estates Client

    • “Geoffrey’s affairs were dealt with just the right combination of friendliness and professionalism, which really helped.”

       

      Wills, Probate & Disputed Estates Client

    • Jan Atkinson is confident with a straightforward approach. Her practice covers both contentious and non-contentious matters, including wealth planning and estate administration.

      Chambers UK

    • I would like to thank everyone in my case for the excellent job!

      Wills, Probate & Disputed Estates client

    Our team is experienced in all forms of contentious probate disputes, including:

    Interpretation of a Will

    Mistakes and ambiguities can arise in a Will. They are most common in ‘DIY’ Wills where the Will-maker is unlikely to have taken legal advice and may not have understood the legal ramifications of writing their own Will.

    Typical errors range from excluding a rightful beneficiary, such as a dependent; inadequately describing an asset; unclear terms as to who inherits on the death of a beneficiary; and purporting to leave an interest in a property they did not own.

    Potential ambiguities that may give rise to a dispute include lack of clarity around the testator’s true wishes; and a failure in the intended tax mitigation behind the Will.

    Our expert trust solicitors understand complex family trust arrangements and have helped many to resolve disputes to protect their wealth.

    • Concerns you may have regarding the administration of a trust
    • Removal of trustees
    • Court applications to vary the terms of a trust

    The process of making a claim depends on whether the Grant of Probate has been issued. The issuing of the Grant can be paused by lodging a caveat with the Probate Registry; but if it’s already been issued, you only six months in which to start a claim.

    Assuming your claim has merits, we would send the executors formal notice of the dispute. We might need to ask the court for rectification of the Will to give effect to the testator’s true wishes and reach the best result for you.

    Value of the estate

    Disputes around the value of an estate can arise in various ways, eg how a property or interest has been valued; trust assets erroneously included within the estate valuation; and HMRC refusal to apply tax relief to an asset.

    Such cases can be complex and we will need early access to documents and other information to assess the issues.

    Challenging an executor

    Executors have important legal and administrative responsibilities, including collecting in the assets, paying the debts and distributing the assets under the Will’s terms.

    Where the Will creates a trust, the executor may also be a trustee – which imposes further legal duties. An executor (and trustee) who fails in their legal duties can expect to attract a claim.

    Beneficiaries can bring a claim against executors for breach of duty where their conduct falls short, for example, unreasonable delays, distributing assets incorrectly or prematurely, or where they are not acting in the best interests of the beneficiaries and the estate.

    We could ask the court to replace an executor. This may be appropriate if relationships have broken down irreparably, but we can discuss the options with you.

    Contested probate where there is no Will

    Despite the importance of having a Will, around two-thirds of UK adults do not have a valid Will. Some people don’t want to confront death while others don’t think they need one.

    Then there are cases where the deceased left a Will – but no one knew about it. In a recent case, a 35-year-old man died apparently without a Will. 10 years after his death, a Will was found and a claim was brought. As it happened, the estate had not been distributed because of a family dispute. Allegations of forgery were not substantiated, and the court ruled the Will was valid – revoking the letters of administration granted to the deceased’s mother.

    Where someone dies without a Will (‘intestate’) the intestacy rules under the Inheritance and Trustees Powers Act 2014 (ITPA) set out who inherits the estate. Where the deceased leaves a spouse (or civil partner) and no children, the spouse inherits the whole estate. But it’s less straightforward where there are children:

    • The spouse (or civil partner) inherits the deceased’s personal belongings; the first £250,000; and an interest in half of the remaining assets (the ‘residuary estate’).
    • The surviving children (this excludes stepchildren) inherit the remaining half of the residuary estate on reaching 18.

    However, the law recognises that the application of the intestacy rules in some cases can be unfair if someone was financially dependent on the deceased.

    Inheritance Act claims –The Inheritance Act 1975 permits anyone who was a dependent, spouse or child of the deceased to claim ‘reasonable’ financial provision if the intestacy rules or the Will (if there is one) fail to provide it. You only have 6 months to bring a claim.

    Specific factors are considered when determining what is reasonable financial provision, such as your present and future resources and the value of the estate.

    If you need to bring a claim, our specialist solicitors can advise what may be reasonable in your unique circumstances and attempt to negotiate a settlement with the other side.

    Creditor claims – Unknown beneficiaries can later emerge, claiming a slice of the estate, for example, estranged children whose identity and or location are unknown.

    In most cases, executors take formal steps to protect themselves from such claims. But a recent court ruling shows they might not always be protected, particularly in the case of currently unascertained creditors, such as unknown victims of sexual abuse (Re Studdert [2020]), where distribution of the estate has been paused for now.

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      Ad Colligenda Grant

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    Contentious Probate FAQs

    What’s the difference between contesting a will and contentious probate?

    Contesting a Will involves a dispute around the validity of the Will itself on grounds of, for instance, lack of mental capacity, fraud or forgery and invalid execution. Contentious probate involves wider issues around the administration of a deceased estate, whether or not there’s a Will.

    Are there any time limits for a contentious probate claim?

    Time limits vary depending on the type of claim. In general, probate claims must usually be brought within 12 years from the date a person becomes entitled to a share of the estate. However, in some cases, these time limits can be considerably shorter so the key is to act quickly.

    Can I appoint a new executor?

    To remove an executor and appoint someone else, you’ll need to show that there are good reasons for doing so. This might include:

    • They have refused to act
    • You think they are mismanaging the estate
    • There is a conflict of interests – i.e. if they also inherit from the estate and you believe this is compromising their duties
    • They can’t perform their duties because of mental or physical disability
    • All the relevant parties have agreed
    • The named executor can’t be found.

    Once an executor has accepted their role, they can’t step down except with a court order.

    Do I have to go to court to contest probate?

    Not usually, most wills disputes are resolved out of court through mediation and negotiation.

    Resolving claims out of court is generally faster, cheaper and can reduce more conflict than is necessary following the death of a loved one.

    It is a good idea to contact a contentious probate specialist before you involve any other relatives or beneficiaries of the estate.

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