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Will and inheritance disputes

Dealing with difficult issues

Bereavement is a time of emotional turmoil and people are not always provided for in the way they had expected or been promised. Especially now that there are many second families and step-relationships as well as couples who chose not to marry, a death can cause disagreement between those left behind; such disputes often become quite bitter.

Experience and expertise

Will and inheritance disputes require specialist lawyers with experience of dealing with such claims. We have a long and successful track record of representing those bringing or defending all aspects of such claims, both in the County Court and in the specialist Chancery Division of the High Court.

Simon Black, who heads the Contentious Probate team has been specialising in this area of law for many years and has successfully pursued and defended numerous claims. His very practical and personable approach is combined with a relentless determination to succeed. Simon is also a registered member of the Association of Contentious Trust and Probate Specialists (ACTAPS).

What areas do we cover?

All aspects of will, inheritance, family and trust disputes, including:

  • Estates where no Will has been made (‘intestacy’)
  • The validity of a Will or trust
  • Wills where reasonable provision has not been made for relatives
  • Claims pursuant to The Inheritance (Provision for family and Dependants) Act 1975
  • Wills where provision has not been made even though it was previously promised
  • Rival claims by former spouse, siblings, children or step-children
  • Alleged undue influence of others in the creation of Wills or trusts

Inheritance Act Claims

If you have not been left what you expected, or what you believe would have been fair, or if a family member has died without leaving a will (meaning you lose out), then you may have a claim against the Estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. We have considerable experience of both bringing and defending Inheritance Act Claims, whether large or small.

Challenging a Will

For a will to be valid, strict criteria must apply. Provided the will was made by solicitors, it most likely will be correct. However, there can be other grounds to challenge the validity of a will:

Undue influence: did someone (most likely now benefiting from the will) persuade the will maker to make the will or change a will by applying what is called 'undue influence'?

Capacity: if the will maker lacked the necessary 'mental capacity' at the time they made their will, it will be invalid.

Fraud: is the will genuine? Is there another will that has been hidden?

Knowledge: did the will maker understand what they were doing when making the will? If not, it may be invalid.

Left out of a will unexpectedly?

It is not uncommon for children or others to be surprised and disappointed to find that they are not mentioned in the will, especially if they have been promised that 'one day you will inherit'.

Children or partners often invest both time and money in properties due to not only love but an expectation or promise that they will become joint owners or inherit. If they are left out, what can be done?

You may well have a claim to reflect the promises made to you and/or the time, effort or money you put into the property or business in return. Such claims are based on legal principles and doctrines such as promissory or proprietary estoppel or common intention constructive trusts.

These are complex areas but we use the full extent of the law to recover inheritance for clients who were wrongly excluded.

Trustee problems?

Trustees are required to act properly and in the best interests of the trust and its beneficiaries. Trustees who fail to act as they should, or simply fail to act, can be challenged and if necessary, removed and replaced.

Power of Attorney disputes

As well as issues which arise following a death there can also be issues when someone is no longer able to manage their own affairs. If there is any dispute as to who can or should manage the affairs and make decisions for a vulnerable person or if there is concern that someone is abusing their power of attorney we can advise on the best way to challenge – or defend – arrangements concerning Powers of Attorney or Court of Protection. We act for both attorneys and those concerned who wish to question the actions of attorneys.

Funding options

We offer various funding options to assist you obtain the justice you seek. In addition to the traditional 'pay as you go' hourly rates, we consider:

  • Result based arrangements (damages based/contingency)
  • Insurance backed schemes
  • Fixed fees

All cases are assessed individually and funding options discussed with you to determine which would be most suitable.

ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution)

Although many disputes do still proceed to court or arbitration, we recognise that clients' interests are often served in seeking to resolve disputes in other ways outside the court process. This can resolve disputes much more quickly and at significantly reduced cost. Mediation is a recognised alternative to litigation. To find out more about the various options available, go to Courts & Alternative Dispute Resolution.

Our wills & inheritance disputes solicitors can arrange meetings at any of our local offices in York and across Yorkshire, so simply contact your nearest Harrowells office in York, St Saviourgate, Clifton Moor, Easingwold, Haxby, Pocklington, Malton, and Thirsk.