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A Complete Guide to Contentious Probate and the Different Types

Simon Colwill - May 22, 2024 - 0 comments

Navigating deceased relatives’ wishes can be a difficult time, particularly when disputes arise regarding the validity of their Will or the distribution of their assets. In these cases, contentious probate is the legal process involved in making sure these disputes are handled and resolved with the best possible outcome. 

MSC Notaries outline what contentious probate is, what it involves and the main instances where it may be required. 

What is Contentious Probate?

Contentious probate in the UK refers to the process of legally disputing an individual’s estate who has passed away. It takes place when Will validity, the distribution, or administration of an estate in a Will is questioned or disagreed with by those involved or related parties. Examples include when a family member or related party thinks that a Will was made under the influence, or if an individual believes they have not been fairly represented in a Will. 

In these cases, you will need to work with probate solicitors, like our team at MSC Notaries, to make sure you go about it in the right way and achieve the best outcome for all parties involved.

What are the different reasons that contentious probate can occur?

Contentious probate can occur whether there is a Will in place or not. 

If there is a Will, reasons can include, but are not limited to:

  • Disagreements over the validity of the Will, including fraud, forgery, undue influence, the deceased’s capacity at the time of making a Will, mistakes in a Will and more
  • Unmet expectations of beneficiaries for inheritance
  • Disagreements regarding the appointed executor(s) of a Will, and/or actions the executor(s) have taken
  • Disagreements regarding the value or ownership of assets such as property
  • Disagreements over the beneficiaries of a Will, for example, if the deceased made promises regarding involvement or gifts that weren’t acted on
  • Creditor claims against an estate if the deceased has debts that do not become void after their death
  • If there are multiple Wills

If there is not a Will, reasons can include, but are not limited to:

  • Disagreements with the overriding of the deceased expressed wishes
  • Disagreements with certain parties not being included in estate distribution, for example, step-children and cohabitants are not included in intestacy (when someone dies without a Will)

You can read more about the key types of contentious probate below.

Do you need a solicitor for contentious probate?

Yes, probate solicitors are a required part of the UK legal process for contentious probate. Working with expert probate solicitors, like our team at MSC Notaries, ensures that you are supported and well-represented throughout the process and can achieve the best possible outcome at what is an understandably difficult time.

Get in touch with our friendly team today to find out more about how we can help you with the process of contentious probate to take as much of the stress off your shoulders as possible.

How much does it cost for contentious probate?

The cost of the process of contentious probate can vary widely, depending on various factors, such as:

  • Complexity of the case
  • Length of the legal process
  • Cost of the legal expenses
  • Cost of the court expenses

When working with professional probate solicitors, they will advise you on the costs and fees that are involved and will likely aim to resolve your case without having to progress the case to court.

You may not be responsible for the costs involved in a contentious probate, as this will depend on the outcome of the case at hand. For example, if it is determined that the deceased is responsible, the costs will be funded by their estate, or if the case goes against you, you may be responsible. 

What are the different types of contentious probate?

A contentious probate dispute can vary hugely, and we have included a summary earlier in the article, however, we’ve included some more detail on the most common types below.

Will challenges

A common type of contentious probate is regarding the validity of a deceased person’s Will. Various grounds fall under this, including:

  • Undue influence, where there are concerns that the deceased was coerced or manipulated into making certain decisions in the Will that don’t align with their own intentions
  • Lack of testamentary capacity, whereby there are concerns that the deceased didn’t have the mental capacity to understand their actions at the time of making or changing a Will
  • Improper execution of a Will, if there are concerns about whether the Will was signed and witnessed in line with legal requirements

Inheritance Act claims

The Inheritance Act 1975 outlines that certain individuals can claim a deceased person’s estate if they feel they have not been appropriately included as a beneficiary in a Will or under the rules of intestacy. Those eligible to claim include spouses and civil partners, children and step-children, cohabitees, and any others who were financially dependent on the deceased. 

Executor or Administrator disputes

This type of contentious probate occurs when there are disputes among or towards those who are appointed as executors or administrators of the deceased’s estate distribution. There are all kinds of disputes that can arise, such as how the Will is interpreted, the valuation or distribution of assets, or allegations of misconduct towards the individuals with these responsibilities.

Forged or fraudulent Wills

Another type is regarding allegations of fraud or forgery of a Will. For example, where there are suspicions that signatures are forged, or the entire Will is fabricated. 

Rectification claims

This occurs in the instance of a clerical error being made in the contents of a Will, or instances where a Will drafter has misunderstood the wishes of the deceased.

Speak to our team of probate solicitors and experts

Our team understands that contentious probate can be a tricky process to go through, at an already difficult and traumatic time. That’s why we focus on making it as simple and stress-free as possible for our clients. Whether you’re looking to contest a Will, have issues with estate administration or just want some guidance on your inheritance rights, our team are happy to offer guidance and advice.

We have decades of experience as probate solicitors, and also offer professional Will drafting and Lasting Power of Attorney services.

Speak to our team today for advice and to find out more about how we can offer a helping hand.

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