Disputing a Will or the Administration of an Estate

When a loved one dies, family members and close friends all have to deal with the resulting emotional impact.  Disagreement between family members or between executors and beneficiaries of the estate can arise in the following circumstances:

  • If it is unclear whether the deceased had full mental capacity when they gave instructions for the preparation of their Will;
  • If it is unclear whether the Will has been validly executed;
  • If the terms of the Will were not clearly written and the deceased’s intention is unclear;
  • Family and loved ones of the deceased argue over the deceased’s Will and Estate; and
  • There is disagreement between the executors as to what action should be taken.

Having to deal with a dispute on top of the emotional impact of a loved one’s death is stressful.  Often, the fact that the dispute is amongst close family members can heighten tension rather than facilitate resolution.  When you seek our assistance we recognise that it is essential that we work with you to resolve the matter as quickly and effectively as we can and that our advice throughout is straightforward and clear and our input does not unnecessarily increase the issues of conflict.  Our established expertise in guiding clients to an amicable resolution will be invaluable.

Our expertise includes helping you in addressing the following issues:

I am concerned that the deceased did not have testamentary capacity when they gave instructions for their Will.  

The one person who is able to prove that they had testamentary capacity when they gave instructions for their Will, being the deceased, will not be available if and when this question arises.  Our skill is in examining the evidence of the circumstances in which instructions were given for the preparation of a Will to determine quickly whether or not the testator was of sound mind in understanding the effect of making a Will, the extent of the assets to pass under their Will and appreciating the claims particular individuals might make upon their estate.

Is there anything I can do if I am concerned that the testator did not validly execute their Will?  

A Will is usually valid if in writing, signed by the testator in the presence of two witnesses at the same time and each witness has then acknowledged the testator’s signature (usually by their own signature).  If, in addition it appears that the testator intended by his signature to give effect to the Will, then the presumption is that it is valid unless there are grounds to challenge it on the basis of lack of testamentary capacity, undue influence or fraud/forgery.   We can assist you in investigating any of these issues. 

What do I do if I am concerned that I have not been adequately provided for under my loved one’s Will or I am a beneficiary of an estate which is facing a potential claim by a third party?

Under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 claims can potentially be brought against an estate where failure to make adequate provision is complained of by:

•    Spouse or civil partner of the deceased who has not re-married
•    Child of the deceased
•    A person treated as a child of the deceased in relation to any marriage or civil partnership
•    A person maintained by the deceased immediately before their death
•    Someone who lived with the deceased or shared a relationship akin to marriage or civil partnership. 

Potentially an individual who fits one of the descriptions above can bring a claim against an estate.  A strict six month time limit from the date of probate usually applies and there are a number of issues that need to be taken in to account on the question of what amounts to adequate provision.  Our established expertise in advising clients in these circumstances means that we will be able to guide you through making the decision as to whether or not you should make a claim and the making of that claim.  Alternatively, we can assist with responding to a claim which is being made against an estate of which you are a beneficiary.  

In the majority of disputes relating to a Will or an estate there are established personal and close relationships between the individuals involved in the dispute.  It is important that, where possible, these relationships should be preserved or capable of rebuilding.  We pride ourselves on our proactive and pragmatic approach in finding practical solutions that will assist you in resolving any dispute as quickly and painlessly as possible.  In the vast majority of these cases we are able to achieve settlement before trial and often before proceedings have been issued so as to limit stress, the damage to existing relationships, time and legal costs.

For no obligation conversation with our estates lawyer, Delfin Posada, telephone 0203 744 3800 or email hello@posadalaw.co.uk.