We have a highly experienced litigation team, in particular our personnel are able to deal with contested will case, one such case was reported Markou and Another v Goodwin and Others: CHD 27 NOV 2013.
Read on to find out about Inheritance Act Claims & Will Disputes!
We have the experience and knowledge to tackle this complicated area of law. We have set out some details of the relevant factors taken into account in relation to disputes under this area of law. However, this is only for guidance of some of the considerations required in some disputed claims.
We will fight your case in a measured and proportionate way, with meticulous preparation. We will advise you in an open and transparent way, as such litigation is particularly risky, so we must constantly review the status of your case, on an ongoing basis. This is because such claims are very expensive, so we work hard to resolve your case quickly and in the most cost effective manner.
We try to take your instructions in a sensitive way, where you may have a claim whether you:-
- Think a Will was made or altered without testamentary capacity or resolving Will;
- Whether you are making a claim under the Inheritance Act; or
- defending one Trust and estate disputes for our clients;
- may have an interest in an estate can dispute a forged or fraudulent Will. In such cases, we may need to help prove that fraud has taken place and make sure that the deceased’s estate is administered according to their last valid Will.
Some claims may include dealing with complex estates, international Trusts and/or overseas assets.
We encourage you to resolve any disputes through some form of ADR, whether Mediation or otherwise. If this is unsuccessful, we prepare to represent you in Court, but this should always be as a last resort.
Claims against Trustees
Being a Trustee involves a lot of responsibility. They must manage the Trust efficiently and always act in the best interests of all the beneficiaries. If they do not, this can have serious financial consequences.
You can make a claim if a Trustee has:-
- Mismanaged Trust funds – such as distributing them wrongly or making bad investments
- Used the Trust funds as their own
- Failed to act impartially between beneficiaries
- Stopped a beneficiary from living in a property or accessing funds that they have a right to according to the terms of the Trust
- Failed to pay Trust income to a beneficiary
- Withheld information about the Trust which they should have disclosed
- Otherwise acted in breach of Trust or stood by and let a co-Trustee act in breach of Trust.
People usually set up Trusts as a way of protecting and preserving their wealth for their family. It can be a vital part of estate planning, keeping money and assets safe for children and other dependants for the future.
Trustees have a duty of care to these beneficiaries, who rely on them to make the right decisions on their behalf. If they have breached this duty of care, you may be able to:-
- Remove or replace a Trustee
- Get information about the Trust and its accounts
- Recover money taken from the Trust.
If a Trustee has committed theft or fraud we can also help you bring criminal charges against them.
Disputes Involving Property Trusts & Co-owned Property
As family arrangements become increasingly complex, particularly in later life, so are the ways we own and inherit properties. These complexities often lead to disputes, especially when family homes are involved.
Co-owned properties and properties held in Trust are two common sources of disagreement. You can seek help if:-
- You have inherited an interest in a property and disagree with the co-owner(s) about what to do with it
- You expected to inherit an interest in a property but did not receive it
- You disagree with the Trustees or beneficiaries about how to use a property held in Trust
- You’re unable to occupy or receive income from a property you have an interest in
- A property has fallen into disrepair and lost value
- Your lifetime entitlement to occupy a jointly-owned property is under threat
- You’ve incurred cost and expense to renovate or change a jointly-owned property.
Professional Negligence In Wills & Estate Planning Advice
Professionals have a duty to act in the best interests of their clients when giving Wills and estate planning advice. In some cases, this duty extends to the clients’ beneficiaries too.
Professional negligence is when a professional makes mistakes or fails in their duty towards clients and beneficiaries. This can involve:-
- Making clerical errors
- Giving incorrect tax or legal advice
- Delaying preparation or drafting of a Will
- Incorrectly recording a client’s wishes
- Failing to ensure that a Will is valid and properly executed.
If you have been affected by one of these mistakes (or others) – a professional negligence claim can correct the mistake or rectify any losses you may have incurred.
In some cases, we can correct a mistake before it affects anyone. However, errors are often only noticed once the estate is being administered, which can lead to disputes.
Inheritance Act Claims
If you have been left out of a Will, or not been left as much as you need, you may be able to claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
While a person is entitled to leave their estate to whoever they want when they die, there are some people who might reasonably expect to have a share of it. This may include:-
- A spouse or civil partner
- Children (both minors or adults)
- A former spouse or civil partner – if they have not remarried
- Someone living continually with the deceased for at least two years before their death
- Any person being financially maintained in some way by them.
We can help you make a claim for financial provision if:-
- The deceased did not leave a valid Will (this is known as intestacy)
- You have been left out of the Will
- You have not been left as much as you need.
There’s a six month deadline from the date probate is granted for any person wishing to bring an Inheritance Act claim – so we urge you to act on an urgent basis to seek advice.
CONTESTING A WILL
What Are The Grounds For Contesting A Will?
Every Will is different and no two disputes are the same. However, any challenge to an estate will usually fall into one of five categories.
Here we outline the common grounds for contesting a Will and other questions you might have about the process:-
- Grounds For Contesting A Will
- Lack of testamentary capacity
- Lack of valid execution
- Lack of knowledge and approval
- Undue influence
- Fraud or forgery
CONTESTING AN INVALID WILL
- Forged Wills & Probate Fraud
- Challenging A Will Due To Lack Of Testamentary Capacity
- Contesting A Will Due To Undue Influence
Forged Wills & Probate Fraud
If you have a claim under this category, we may be able to help you defend an estate against forged Wills and other forms of probate fraud to honour the deceased’s wishes and you are awarded your rightful share of their estate.
Probate fraud includes any kind of dishonest behaviour intended to secure personal benefit from the estate of someone who has passed away. This could mean:-
- Instructing a Will writer while pretending to be the testator
- Forging the testator’s signature on a Will
- Forging an entire Will
- Destroying someone else’s Will without their permission.
If the instructions in a Will are significantly different to what you expected, probate fraud may have taken place.
Challenging A Will Due To Lack Of Testamentary Capacity
You may be able to contest someone’s Will if they were not of sound mind or memory when they made or changed it.
Someone must have testamentary capacity in order to make or change a Will. This means that they must have the mental ability to understand what they are doing and the impact that it will have on their estate and anyone who might inherit.
A Will is invalid if someone makes or changes it without testamentary capacity. Their estate will be administered according to their most recent valid Will instead. If they had no previous valid Will, their estate will be divided according to the rules of intestacy, which set out who can inherit from an estate when there’s no Will.
You may believe that a Will is invalid due to lack of testamentary capacity if:-
- The Will doesn’t provide for you or others whom you would have expected to benefit.
- The Will contradicts earlier promises or agreements.
- You’re concerned that the Will does not reflect the deceased’s true wishes.
- You know the deceased was suffering from a medical condition when they made the
Will and doubt whether they had testamentary capacity at that time.
Since many people only make or change their Will later in life, their capacity can be affected by conditions like memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. However, people can lose capacity at any age due to mental illness or brain injury.
Contesting A Will Due To Undue Influence
Undue influence is when a person coerces someone into changing their Will to benefit themselves. Making a claim of undue influence involves a careful analysis of the evidence and therefore requires specialist knowledge of this type of claim. We have the expertise to help you if you think this is the case.
You might suspect undue influence if someone has changed their Will in a way that seems surprising, out of character or distinct from the pattern of previous Wills.
These changes might be:-
- Unexpected or last minute
- Detrimental to them or their estate
- Different to the wishes they’ve expressed before.
There might be cause for concern if:-
- The person benefitting from the new Will was not previously included in a Will
- They stood to inherit a much smaller part of the estate before
- The deceased was dependant on them when the changes were made
- The deceased was frail or ill when the Will was made and possibly more susceptible to forceful persuasion.
By its nature, undue influence usually happens behind closed doors, by people in positions of trust, such as a partner, child or carer. This can make it difficult to prove, and a successful claim will need to show that there’s no other reasonable explanation for the Will being the way it is.
Undue influence is more than just persuasion, which is generally allowed. When looking at a claim of undue influence the Court will look for evidence that the deceased would not have made the gifts in the Will without being subject to influence.
Contact us here to find out about Inheritance Act Claims & Will Disputes!