The last thing you want to be doing when grieving the loss of a loved one is untangling the threads of a complicated estate, or managing a dispute from a relative about the contents of a Will. Spencers Solicitors can help with the entire Wills and probate process, right from writing a Will that is robust enough to withstand any Will dispute to arranging the valuation and distribution of an estate's assets.
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It is possible to legally challenge a Will on several grounds:
The above list is not exhaustive but it sets out the main reasons that Wills are challenged.
Spencers Solicitors can represent you if you want to challenge a Will or you are an executor of a Will that is being disputed by a beneficiary or potential beneficiary. An example of a Will claim which was successfully defended related to a challenge raised by an adult child under the 1975 Inheritance Act, which allows for adequate provision to be made for those who are financially reliable on the deceased.
In this instance, the woman, who was unemployed and in her forties, claimed against her late father's estate for failing to make adequate provision for her in leaving his entire estate to his second wife (her step-mother). Solicitors who were acting on behalf of the estate successfully defended the challenge, arguing that there was no reason that the petitioner could not work but that the estate's primary beneficiary, as a widowed pensioner with a small income, needed the bulk of the estate to sustain her for the rest of her expected life.
This case study shows why it is vital you have a Will that clearly expresses your wishes in a legal way. Even the closest family members can fall out over disputes relating to the estate of a loved one, which makes it so surprising that around 70% of adults in Britain do not have a Will.
Though the challenge in the above example was not upheld, it is not uncommon for Wills to be successfully challenged under the 1975 Inheritance Act, so get in touch with Spencers Solicitors for legal advice and guidance if you believe you have been unfairly treated in the dispersion of assets.
Contact Spencers Solicitors today if you need advice or answers relating to Wills and probate. You can either call us directly or fill in the enquiry form to request a call back from us.
Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions we receive about Wills and probate.
Call Spencers Solicitors today on 01246 266637, or fill in our enquiry form to request a call back. Our expert advisors will be happy to answer any initial enquiry you have about Wills and Probate management including whether you may have legal grounds to dispute a Will.
A Grant of Probate is a certificate is issued in recognition that the Will is legal and valid. You don’t need to obtain Probate if the value of the estate is less than £5,000 cash. If the value of assets is greater than this, or the assets are held in the form of property, shares, pension, or business, you will need to obtain a Grant of Probate (or Letters of Administration, in the situation of intestacy) from the court.
Financial institutions can set their own limits for requiring Probate, and you need to be a nominated Executor, or acting on behalf of them, to apply for it. Without a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration, you will not be able to administrate the estate.
Probate, the act of administering an estate, typically takes six to nine months. It can take longer if the estate is complicated or if a beneficiary or potential beneficiary contests the will.
The Executor is responsible for ensuring all the tax returns submitted are correct, and that all creditors receive payments. Executors can be personally liable if they do not take any action required to protect the value of assets or if they do not pay all of the estate’s bills correctly and on time.
It is possible to challenge the way an executor is managing the estate or how they interpret the instructions in the Will. You can also make a claim against an executor if you believe they have been fraudulent in the statement of accounts, for example, if they have not reported or undervalued certain assets, or if you suspect they are charging the estate excessive fees for personal gain.
An executor must follow the instructions in the Will. It is not for them to decide whether the distribution of assets is unfair and should be altered, or to make moral judgements. They can use their discretion if there are not specific instructions about when or how assets can be sold, but they need to be careful not to be negligent in protecting the value of them.
There are times when instructions in a will are vague or contradictory. An executor can use their judgement though they should be very careful about providing evidence to support their decision in case their actions are contested by a beneficiary. We always recommend people have a Will professionally drawn up to avoid any ambiguity in their wishes, and contact us if they are an Executor who faces a situation where the Will's instructions are unclear.
A Will does not need to be prepared by a solicitor for it to be legally binding. However, DIY wills are often less robust and more easily challenged as people without a legal background are not always aware of the necessary requirements.
You do not need a lawyer to help you administer an estate, but many people choose to as the executor can be personally held liable for any errors. Also, managing an estate can be time-consuming and it can be difficult to fit responsibilities into working hours.