A common form of contentious probate involves the challenging of Wills. The loss of a loved one is tragic in itself, but to do so and then have someone making a Claim on their death, is even harder.
People have a misconception that if you leave a Will (or not), everything owned by them will pass to their loved ones, and that they will be well provided for. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
The following provides an idea of how and/or when, a Will can be challenged on a person’s death:-
- Mental Capacity – “knowledge and approval”
An individual’s Will can be challenged on grounds they were not aware of what they were doing when they made their Will. That can take many forms, including being challenged on the ground that the person was of unsound mind when they made it.
- Invalid under the Wills Act 1837
If the Will doesn’t comply with the law, it may be deemed invalid, for example it may not contain the individual’s signature, or is defective in some other way, such as being improperly witnessed.
- Duress/Undue Influence
Challenges can be made on the grounds that someone has placed pressure on the individual to leave their Estate to them. Suspicion can involve some kind of pressure from another for this to happen, but every case depends on its own facts, and this ground is probably the hardest one to prove in such cases.
- Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975
A person can challenge a Will on the ground that they were being maintained prior to their death by the person who made the Will, or they were not properly provided for in their Will, and can be used by spouses, and ex spouses, on their death.
- Replacement Wills
The Will made may prove not to be the last Will they made, but a new Will could have been made that proves to be inconsistent with the earlier one.
- Negligence Claims
It may transpire that the individual’s full wishes were not complied with, on the basis it was poorly drafted by a solicitor/Will writer, which results in there being disappointed beneficiaries.
We can also help you where there is no Will in place and you want to know if you are entitled to make a Claim.
Contentious probate may centre around executors. Executors are individuals who manage an individual’s Estate. They can be professionally appointed, such as those in a solicitors’ practice, and/or individuals nominated by Will. Executors have a legal duty to handle an Estate properly, such that they pay off the debts and liabilities of the Estate, before paying beneficiaries what is owed to them, whether by virtue of a Will, or even where there is no Will in place. There may also be situations where an Executor is deemed unsuitable for the role and needs to be replaced/removed, such as where they misuse monies and/or property, and/or become embroiled in a dispute, such as in relation to property being sold, or not.
At Hanne & Co we also handle disputes in relation to Trusts. This is not an easy area, particularly when some trusts are complicated and nearly all require professional expert help. Trusts disputes occur when a person who is legally entrusted to handle money and/or assets of another, abuse their position. This can be done in a manner of ways such as:
- by ignoring what the trust was set up to achieve;
- the person who set up the trust did not have the mental capacity to make the trust, and/or was placed under pressure to do so;
- the trustee does not deal with the trust properly and is thus negligent.
We can also help you if you, or someone you know, believes they are receiving less than they anticipated from a trust or estate, or in the event that documents are not being disclosed, or they want to ensure there is a protection of assets which are correctly distributed.
Here at Hanne & Co, we go to great lengths to attempt settlement for you, or encourage some other form of alternative dispute resolution (where appropriate), rather than the case going to court, which can be a costly affair.
If you relate to any of the above, (or know anyone who might need our help), and/or wish to find out more, please contact Rajinder Rai in Hanne & Co’s Private Client Department at email@example.com.
Or call our switchboard on 0207 278 0017.
Rajinder Rai is a Solicitor in Hanne & Co’s Private Client Department. She specialises in contentious probate.