Helping you Through an Inheritance Disputes
Generally, when someone makes a Will, their wishes are carried out without question. However, nowadays it is not uncommon to see disputes over Wills. These disputes are also sometimes referred to as ‘contentious probate claims’ because it is how the assets will be divided once probate has been obtained which is causing the disagreement. As family structures become increasingly complicated and property values continue to rise, more disappointed beneficiaries are challenging Wills for one of several reasons.
If you would like to challenge a Will, or you are defending against a dispute from a disgruntled beneficiary, please contact our inheritance dispute specialists for an initial conversation about how we can help.
Will and Estate Disputes - Lack of Capacity
Legally, a Will can only be made by someone who understands the significance of what they are doing and its impact on the estate they will leave behind. It is sometimes alleged that the person making the Will (the testator) lacked what is known as ‘testamentary capacity’. This means that the testator did not have the necessary clarity of thought to make the Will. There is an established test case of Banks vs Goodfellow dating back to 1870 which has been reviewed by numerous Judges over the years and is still considered to be correct. If the testator is found to have lacked the capacity to make a Will, it is then said to be invalid and the previous Will, if there is one, is used. This is particularly relevant if close relatives of a testator are included in a Will but with obvious omissions. The most obvious example is provisions being made for children but one sibling being omitted without any explanation. The same could apply to provisions for some but not all grandchildren. We can help you to establish whether there is any evidence of lack of capacity, possibly by use of the Law Society Guidance following the case of Larke vs Nugus.
Will And Estate Disputes - Undue influence
As well as having the mental capacity to make a Will, the testator needs to make their own decisions about what is to be included in the Will. If someone else succeeds in pressurising them into including particular clauses or making specific bequests that they would not have chosen to include without this outside influence, then again, the Will is open to challenge.
Will And Estate Disputes - financial dependency and disinheritance
Financial dependency has traditionally been one of the largest single factors for challenging a Will. If someone was financially dependent on the person who died at the time of death, then it may be possible for them to contest the Will if they can show that the Will does not make ‘adequate provision’ for them. This is done under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. Similarly, if a close relative feels they have been disinherited without clear reason, even if they are no longer financially dependent on the person who has died, they may still have grounds to challenge.
Wills and estate disputes - broken promises
Another possible scenario is if someone is promised the whole or part of a person’s estate in exchange for doing something for them during their lifetime, and then does not receive the benefit that was promised. An example of this might be a son or daughter working long hours for many years to support a family business such as a farm on the understanding that they would inherit it upon their parents’ death and then finding that their parents’ Wills did not provide for this. This might be regarded as an ‘unfulfilled promise’ and be sufficient to enable a Will to be challenged.
Wills and estate disputes - Invalid or Fraudulent Will
For a Will to be valid, it must be in writing and signed in the presence of two witnesses, neither of whom can be due to benefit from the Will. If there is evidence to show that these conditions have not been met, then it may be possible to challenge the Will. The most frequent instance where this occurs is where a Will has been prepared on a ‘do-it-yourself’ basis without the input of a lawyer and the witnessing process has not been carried out correctly. A Will can also be challenged if it is believed that either the Will itself, or the signature of the testator, may have been forged and is therefore fraudulent.
A Specialist Inheritance Disputes Team
Our Association of Contentious Trust and Probate Specialists (ACTAPS) trained solicitors can help, whether you are bringing a claim or being claimed against. We act for beneficiaries, executors, trustees, and personal representatives on a broad range of contentious issues around challenging a Will and disputing trusts and estates.
We can see you at any of our offices or have an initial call to discuss your position and how we can help. Please be aware that contesting a Will under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 is time-sensitive and must be done no later than six months after probate is granted. However, there are no such restrictions on challenging a Will that is believed to be fraudulent, the result of undue influence on the testator, or made by someone lacking in mental capacity.
I could not recommend Fraser Dawbarns highly enough. Bev Chase and Iain Grimes gave me friendly, honest advice from the start. They both did an excellent job for the from the start. This was done under unusual and very difficult circumstances for me. They were both professional and personable. Thank you both.Client - Downham Market Office
Why Choose Fraser Dawbarns To Help You?
Free, No Obligation Consultation
You may be unsure about whether your Will and Estate disputes are valid or you may be wary about being pressured into making a claim if you see a solicitor. The team at Fraser Dawbarns will be happy to listen to your situation and advise you on whether we think you have a claim and whether we think you have a reasonable prospect of success. We will give you our opinion and an idea of any potential costs but will not put you under any pressure to proceed if you are not yet ready to do so.
To accommodate the different requirements of our clients, we offer a choice of service levels so that you can choose the level of contact that best suits your needs. By offering the choice between undertaking work on either a fixed fee basis or at an hourly rate, we give you the freedom to pick the pricing option that best suits you.
Fixed Fee Service
It is important to us that our clients know exactly what they will pay and the scope of the services they will receive at the beginning of the transaction. That is why Fraser Dawbarns offer a fixed fee service with no hidden costs or unexpected charges for clients who are dealing with legal disputes.
An Experienced Team
Fraser Dawbarns are ideally situated to help you with any legal claims you may have. Our team of civil litigation experts have years of experience handling a wide range of claims and disputes and the team is ranked in the Legal 500 guide to the top law firms for our Debt Recovery, Employment, Personal Injury and Contentious Probate work. With offices in Wisbech, King’s Lynn, Downham Market, March and Ely we are close at hand when you need to see someone to discuss your case.
If you would like help with any legal dispute, please contact us to see how we can help you.
Contact Us Today
Our team will help you from the beginning of your case to the end, giving you total peace of mind. If you would like friendly, client focused advice on a wide range of legal issues, get in touch and see how we can help you.
Call or email us today and find out how we can make your life easier.