There are many problems which can arise after the death of a loved one; whether you have concerns about the validity of their will, if you want to contest a will, the way in which their estate is being administered or if you have not received what you expected from their estate, our dedicated expert lawyers are on hand to sensitively advise you of your rights at what is already a distressing time.
Contesting a Will
An estate is administered in accordance with the last will of the deceased or by the rules of intestacy if the deceased did not make a will. There are a number of requirements to establish a valid will which include mental capacity of the testator and a valid signature of the testator in the presence of two witnesses (who are not beneficiaries under the will). There must not be any undue influence or pressure on the testator at the time of making the will.
If you have valid concerns and wish to contest a will, a claim can be made and if a court finds that a will is invalid, the deceased's estate will be administered in accordance with their previous will, or if there are no previous wills, in accordance with the intestacy rules.
Each claim is unique to its own facts. If you have any concerns about the validity of a will, you should immediately seek guidance and advice. Our team of expert lawyers can advise you on whether the circumstances surrounding the preparation of a will give rise to a claim and, if so, the procedures to either pursue or defend such a claim.
Challenging the Administration of an Estate
Where there is a valid will in place, the will usually appoints executors who are responsible for the administration of the deceased’s estate. If the will does not appoint executors, the beneficiaries can apply to administer the estate. If the deceased died intestate, i.e. without a will, a relative can apply administer the estate.
There are various duties on the executors or administrators as follows;
- Assisting with funeral arrangements and specifically finances to pay for the funeral.
- Contacting the deceased’s bank(s) as soon as possible to freeze the account(s).
- Obtaining probate.
- Contacting any relevant organisations such as HMRC, employers, pension providers and utility providers.
- Considering whether it is necessary to advertise for unknown creditors or beneficiaries.
- Collecting any financial lump sums due under pension schemes or life insurance.
- Dealing with any creditors.
- Paying continuing bills.
- Ensuring that property and other assets are properly looked after until they can be sold or distributed.
- Monitoring and dealing with the post.
- Accounting for all monies in and out.
- Dealing with inheritance tax.
- Distributing the estate in accordance with the Will or intestacy rules.
If you have concerns about the way the estate is being administered, please contact us immediately in order to address your concerns and to discuss the options available to you.
Inheritance Act Claims
Where an individual dies without making proper financial provision in their Will for a relative or dependent, the Courts have wide powers to distribute assets as they see fit to produce a fair result. Each case turns on its own facts and there isn’t a standard formula to calculate a fair provision.
Under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975), only certain people are entitled to make an application to the court for an order. Broadly speaking, these are the immediate family of the deceased, or their partner if they were living together as husband and wife or as civil partners.
Any application under the Inheritance Act must be made within six months of the grant of probate. The Court’s permission will be needed to begin proceedings after the six month time limit and permission is usually only given in exceptional circumstances.
As the Courts have a very wide discretion in deciding cases, two different judges could reach different conclusions about the same case. We can offer you cogent advice as to what may be deemed a fair provision by the Courts. We will also discuss the alternatives to issuing proceedings, as in some cases, it may be beneficial to settle the matter outside of court and alternative dispute resolutions such as mediation can prove very effective.
As there is a six month time limit to issuing proceedings, please contact us immediately to discuss your potential claim under the Inheritance Act.