Wills and Probate
Our dedicated team of specialists can assist you to contest a will, challenge an estate or deal with an inheritance problem. They will even consider acting on a No Win No Fee basis.
We could assist you to: -
- Secure your entitlement.
- Where appropriate, challenge the validity of a Will.
- Enforce a promise that you be provided for.
- Assist you to receive provision for your maintenance.
It is unfortunate that sometimes people do not receive what they are entitled to from an estate because others prevent it from happening. We have helped clients to remove obstacles to receiving their rightful provision, to enforce the terms of a Will, or to remove caveats and secure grants of probate when others are trying to prevent it.
Is there something wrong with the Will?
Over the years, we have assisted clients who feared that a Will was defective. This might be because the will-writer lacked the necessary mental capacity, or was unduly influenced, or was unaware of the true content of the document that they signed. We have helped people when correct formalities were ignored when the Will was produced, and even in circumstances when the Will was alleged to be fraudulent.
Does the will fail to implement the terms of a promise?
We can help you if you were promised provision from an estate in return for providing services or assistance. We have helped clients who provided care and domestic services, or worked in the family business for little or no reward, or who provided financial benefits to the will maker. We have even acted in a number of cases concerning family farms. We can assist you if you were promised provision, and performed your side of the bargain, but do not benefit from the Will.
We have also acted to enforce family promises, where 2 people agree how their combined estate is to be distributed, but one party to the agreement changes their mind after the other dies.
Do you need reasonable maintenance from an estate?
In certain circumstances, it may be possible to secure provision from the estate of a relative or benefactor even if the Will makes no actual provision for you. We have assisted numerous clients to secure financial provision or continued maintenance from the estate of a parent, step parent or partner even when a relationship has broken down.
Our specialist team has also acted in technical cases involving forensics and handwriting evidence and even DNA test.
In many of these cases, we acted on a No Win No Fee basis.
If you need assistance, now is the time to act. In many cases, time limits with as little as 6 months might apply, so it is important to move quickly.
Contact our specialist team today.
Inheritance Act Claims / Financial Provision
When all else fails, one method of contesting a will or challenging the laws of intestacy is provided by the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975. A claim under these rules is generally known as an Inheritance Act Claim.
A successful claim will see the claimant receive financial provision from the estate.
Applicable rules allow the following classes of person to bring a claim: -
- Spouse or civil partner of the deceased.
- Former spouse or civil partner of the deceased.
- An unmarried partner who has lived in the deceased’s household for 2 years or more.
- A child of the deceased.
- Somebody who was treated as if they were the child of the deceased.
- Somebody who was financially maintained by the deceased immediately before his or her death.
The claim will examine whether the lack of provision from the estate brings about an unreasonable result for the claimant. Over the years, our specialist solicitors have used these rules to: -
- Enable an unmarried partner to inherit from the deceased, when the rules of intestacy prevented that partner from receiving anything.
- To allow the child of the deceased to inherit from his father’s estate when the last Will was “stale”. The last Will was more than 20 years old and provided the estate to the deceased’s former partner, whom he had separated from many years previously. The deceased had an intention to update his will but “never got around to it”.
- To cause a stepchild of the deceased to receive provision from his estate, when he had inherited most of his assets from that child’s mother.
- To enable a person to receive financial provision from the estate when the deceased had been financially maintaining her during life, but had not provided for such maintenance could to continue after death.
- Enabled the spouse of the deceased to seek redress in circumstances when they had separated but not divorced, and the deceased had tried to use his will to frustrate any possibility of a divorce settlement.
Enforcing a Promise / Proprietary Estoppel
We regularly see circumstances whereby a person was promised a benefit from another person’s estate in return for providing services to them. In many instances, our clients are provided care and domestic services in return for little or no pay. In other instances, we have assisted the children of farmers who worked on the farm for less than market rates. We have even assisted people who have sacrificed benefits for the deceased.
In each instance, the deceased person had previously promised to provide a reward to the client under his or her will. After death, it was discovered that the deceased person had failed to uphold their side of the promise. They had received the services of a benefit, but had done nothing to fulfil the promise of reward.
Our expert solicitors assisted those claimants to bring claims against the respective estates relying upon the equitable doctrine of proprietary Estoppel.
They succeeded in preventing the executors of the will is from distributing the assets in a way that was inconsistent with the promises made.
Our expert solicitors helped: -
- A sheep farmer receive payment in place of an interest in his parents farm.
- A cattle farmer receive a share of the family farm.
- An unpaid care assistant receive the house that the deceased promised to her.
- A family member receive payment from the estate in return for all of the assistance provided to the deceased during life.
It seems that cases of dementia and other forms of mental incapacity are increasing with time. Whilst there have been recent developments in the treatment of such conditions, there are no cures.
In order to make a will, a person must be able to understand what is involved in that process, and appreciate all of the assets at their disposal, and must take account of all the moral claims against their estate for provision. If a person suffers from some kind of mental impairment which prevents such an understanding, then they are not capable of making a will.
Any such will made in those circumstances will not be valid.
It is sad that those who suffer from such disabilities are also vulnerable to the pressures applied by others. It is no wonder that we regularly see circumstances where a vulnerable person has made a will that favours one relative over others when there was no such intention to favour that relative prior to the condition developing.
If a will is successfully challenged on the grounds of testamentary capacity, it will not be valid. If there was a previous will (and assuming that previous will was revoked by the last Will) then the terms of that will shall be resurrected. It is important to note that a claim should only be brought if the circumstances that are imposed by the last Will being shown to be invalid actually favour you.
Our expert solicitors have assisted: -
- The nephews and nieces of a deceased person to receive equal shares of the deceased’s estate (that were promised to them in the penultimate will) in circumstances where the last Will was made after the deceased had been admitted to a nursing home due to suffering from severe Alzheimer’s.
- The grandchild of a deceased person to receive full provision from his estate (as was promised in the penultimate will) in circumstances where the deceased person was suffering from dementia, had forgotten that his relationship with a former partner had irretrievably broken down, and had subsequently made a will to favour that person.
- Previous beneficiaries under the terms of the penultimate will to share in the estate when the will makers condition was such that she had “forgotten about them” and did not recognise them when she made her last will.
There are many instances when the will of a vulnerable person is found to be invalid because it can be shown that he or she was coerced into making that will.
When the will does not reflect the true wishes of the will maker, because it was brought about by the undue influence of another, the will shall not be valid.
It is important to distinguish between those circumstances where the will maker lost his or her free will, in those circumstances where they allowed themselves to be persuaded. There has to be true coercion for an undue influence claim to succeed.
If the claim is successful, and the will is shown not to be valid, then circumstances will revert to the conditions that existed immediately prior to the will being made. If there was a previous will, then the terms of that will shall be resurrected. If there was no previous will (or if a previous will was revoked by means other than the last will) then the rules of intestacy would apply. It is important to make sure that you benefit from the previous circumstances if you wish to challenge a will on grounds of undue influence.
Our expert solicitors have assisted: -
- The child of the deceased to secure an equal share of the estate when the deceased had been compelled to change the will in favour of a sibling.
- The children of the deceased to recover the estate of their parents from a care assistant who had unscrupulously forced the deceased changes will.
In many instances, there is no reason to challenge a will or to contest probate, but rather to ensure that the terms of a will are carried out. We have seen many instances of circumstances where the executors of an estate have refused to make payment to one or more beneficiaries without good reason.
Over the years, our expert solicitors have: -
- Compelled executors to provide an equal share of the estate to a beneficiary who was out of favour with the executors, when the only reason why they wished to withhold payment was because they did not feel he deserved to receive it.
- Used DNA evidence to prove that the claimant was the child of the deceased, and therefore qualified for an equal share of the estate.
- Taken action to remove an executor who refused to administer an estate and therefore prevented payment from taking place.
- Taken action to properly enforce the rules of intestacy to ensure that a qualifying person receive their fair share of the estate.