A guide to contested Wills and inheritance disputes
We’ve put together the answers to some of the most common questions we’re asked by clients. If you can’t find the answer you want here, please get in touch with us, for free on 0800 923 2080.
Are there any time limits that may affect my ability to contest a Will?
The time limits that may affect your claim will depend on the type of claim you are looking to bring. Some claims have strict time limits, which may be as short as 6 months after a Grant is obtained from the Probate Registry. However, even if your claim is not subject to a strict time limit, you will want to make sure that the property you are claiming against remains safe and secure. For this reason, whatever the nature of your claim, we recommend getting in touch with us as soon as possible to protect your position.
Can I find out if there was a Will, and how can I get a copy?
If you’d like to find out whether a relative of yours has left a Will, you can now use the Probate Registry Online Search facility. Provided you have details of your relative’s name and when they died, you should be able to search for their Will, if it has been entered at the Probate Registry. If there isn’t a Will, the Probate Registry can also let you know if someone is trying to deal with your relative’s estate.
What should I do if I think a relative has left a Will, but someone is withholding it from me?
If you’re worried that someone is keeping information about a Will from you, or not letting you see it, we can take action for you. If you’ve already searched for the Will at the Probate Registry then we can apply to the court to make the person concerned produce a copy – or come to court to provide further information.
What is meant by “Probate” and “obtaining a Grant”?
Probate is a term used to describe the work undertaken to deal with a person’s estate. The Grant is a document that the Probate Registry Court issues enabling someone to deal with the assets and belongings of the person who has died. There can be one or more people named in the grant who can take charge of the assets. It gives them the right to collect the deceased’s money from banks and building societies, and to sell property and pay off debts.
There are three types of Grants:
- Probate: this is granted to the executors named in the Will
- Letters of Administration (with Will): this is granted when someone left a valid Will and then had to amend it, for instance, if the named executor has died
- Letters of Administration: this is granted when someone did not leave a Will.
How do I find out whether there’s been a Grant of Representation?
You can search online using the Probate Registry Online Search facility. The Probate Registry can provide you with a copy of the Grant for a small fee. Certain types of claim, such as claims under the Inheritance Act, require you to bring a claim within six months of when the Grant was taken out.
Can I find out how valuable the estate is?
Yes. The Grant will contain an estimate of the value of the estate. This is called the ‘probate value.’ It shows you how much the estate is probably worth, less any liabilities.
I’m worried about a loved one’s Will. Can I stop someone taking out a Grant to deal with the estate?
Yes. If you’re concerned about the contents of a Will you can enter what’s called a ‘caveat’ at the Probate Registry. This will stop the Grant being taken out unless you’re consulted first. It gives you time to look into your concerns about the Will before the estate is dealt with.
What’s the difference between an executor, an administrator and a personal representative?
An executor is a person appointed in a Will to look after the estate. An administrator is a person who is given the task of managing the estate when there isn’t a Will, or the Will doesn’t name an executor. A personal representative is the ‘catch all’ term to describe executors and administrators.
I don’t feel I’ve received a fair share of the estate. What can I do?
Even if there aren’t any issues relating to the Will, you still might be able to make a claim against an estate. See our section on Inheritance Act claims.
If you contributed towards a property owned by the deceased, you might be entitled to a share of that too. If so you may be able to make a claim. Contact us today or see our section on Disputes over rights to land and property.
What happens if someone’s died without a Will?
If your loved one didn’t leave a Will then they are said to have died ‘intestate.’ In this case, their assets will be divided in accordance with the rules of intestacy. Unfortunately, these rules don’t take into account any individual relationships that your loved one had. So you might be disappointed with what is left to you. If so, you might be able to bring a claim for financial provision. See our section on Inheritance Act claims.
Will I have to go to court if I’m contesting a Will?
Generally, you won’t have to go to court. We focus on negotiation and mediation to hopefully settle matters long before they have to go to trial. Negotiation is a quicker and more cost-effective way to deal with disputes.
How long does an inheritance dispute take?
Some can last just a few weeks, but others may, unfortunately, take many months to resolve. Whatever your circumstances, we take an active approach and look for practical solutions to help settle a case as quickly as possible. We’ll treat every case as sensitively and efficiently as possible, always focusing on the best interests of our clients. By aiming to settle your case well before trial, we’ll hopefully save you time, stress and money.
How much will the dispute cost and how will it be funded?
Once we have considered your case we can provide you with advice about the anticipated costs and the options of funding that are available. Your funding options may include:
- Funding the costs yourself
- Funding the costs through your legal expenses insurer
- Funding through a “no win no fee” agreement
Whatever your situation, we’ll make sure to keep you fully informed every step of the way. We try and settle just about every case before it comes to trial, which keeps costs to a minimum and ensures you have a as much control over any agreement reached as possible.
Why should I settle my case?
We pride ourselves on encouraging and achieving settlements for our clients. We recognise that clients feel strongly about their contested will and inheritance cases. However, we also appreciate that legal claims are hugely stressful from both an emotional and financial perspective. Our experience and understanding means we are alive to the risk that not every case will be successful. We therefore seek to minimise both the stress and the risk by achieving a deal for you that can enable you happily to move on from a dispute, without the need to go through an expensive and unpleasant court process.
What is mediation?
Mediation is an alternative and effective method of settling a contested will or inheritance dispute, without the need to go to Court.
The process involves using a professionally trained mediator, who works with both parties to help achieve an agreement. Each of the parties will often be in separate rooms, with the mediator discussing the case with each of the parties, before taking offers back and forth between the two rooms.
Mediation is a confidential process, so it will not affect your case if the mediation is unsuccessful. However, the vast majority of cases do resolve by way of settlement at mediation. We therefore encourage our clients to consider mediating their contested will and inheritance disputes at an early stage, to avoid the costs of going to Court. We have attended mediations with many clients, so can support you on the day with expert advice to help achieve a settlement for you.
Do you offer a free initial consultation?
We like to consider each case before we meet with prospective clients. This aims to ensure that you do not need to pay for unnecessary fees, should we feel that there is not a case worth pursuing.
Please complete the enquiry form, providing us with as much detail as possible. We will then aim to get back to you within 24 hours with a response. We are also happy to have a short no obligation phone conversation with you, in order to understand the case further and advise on the next steps to be taken.
“Amanda Noyce (Band 4) is head of the inheritance and trusts disputes group at Royds Withy King in Bath. An interviewee describes her as “very approachable and understanding,” adding: “I couldn’t recommend her highly enough. She is very thorough with her investigations and covers all angles.” Chambers 2017 UK-wide
“Royds Withy King ‘achieves good results for its clients time and time again’. Amanda Noyce ‘is unflappable’ in Court of Protection applications involving mental capacity issues, as well as Inheritance Act, tax and professional negligence matters.” Legal 500 2016 South West