Dronfield Wills and Probate Solicitors

Did you know that only three of every ten adults in Britain have a Will?

Our Dronfield Wills and Probate solicitors can assist with any question or issue you have from writing Wills to advising on the payment of Inheritance Tax, arranging Power of Attorney and challenging probate. They can provide expert legal advice and guidance when you need it most.

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Who can make a claim against an Estate?

Spencers Solicitors regularly handle all types of claims made against an estate including those where:

  • The Will has not been prepared and executed correctly
  • There is an element of fraud - either the signature is not correct, or a person impersonated the testator to a professional to have a will drawn up
  • The testator was under undue pressure to sign
  • The testator did not understand what they were signing, was under the age of 18 at the time, or lacked the mental capacity to sign

If you are considering making a claim against an estate, or you are the executor of an estate where the Will is being challenged, talk to our Wills and Probate lawyers in the Dronfield area.

Those who may be able to make a claim include:

  • The testator's spouse or civil partner, even if estranged at the time of the testator's death
  • Any former partner or spouse who was receiving maintenance from the testator at the time of death
  • Children - including illegitimate and adopted children, and stepchildren if they were treated as a child by the deceased and financially supported by them
  • Anyone who was being financially supported by the testator at the time of their death

Simply having such a relationship with the deceased is not enough to validate a claim. A lawyer who specialises in challenging Wills will look at how old you are and whether you can support yourself independently. For example, an unemployed adult child challenged the Will of her deceased father who left his entire estate to his second wife. The daughter alleged that her father should have made provision for her in his Will. However, a judge found that there was no reason she could not support herself as her being unemployed was a lifestyle choice. Her ageing step-mother, who was only in receipt of a modest pension, needed the assets to live a reasonable standard of life.

A Court will always look at the claimant's circumstances as well as how altering the distribution of assets will affect other beneficiaries. They may award a lump-sum, create a trust where the claimant benefits during their lifetime but where the assets remain in the ownership of the estate, transfer the ownership of property to the applicant or request the estate make a series of payments to the claimant.

Wills and Probate

Wills and Probate both relate to estates but they are two different things. A Will is the written instructions of how the testator wants their assets to be allocated in the event of their death. An Executor is nominated in the Will, and this is the person with the responsibility of carrying out the instructions in the Will.

One of the first things an Executor will do is apply for a Grant of Probate. Probate is issued by the Court and confirms the Executor has the legal authority to administer an estate and distribute the assets. If a person dies without leaving a will - known as dying intestate - a potential Executor can apply to the Court for a Letters of Administration (now called Grant of Representation) instead of a Grant of Probate.

It is vital to the success of any claim again a Will that you seek legal advice and representation at the earliest opportunity. Contesting a Will under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (which is the law that allows for reasonable provision for dependants) must be made within six months of the Grant of Probate. Beneficiaries who are making a claim against an estate - for example, someone who believes they should have inherited more than they did, have up to 12 months to make a claim, while there is no time limit on claims being made for fraud.

Spencers Solicitors can explain your rights if you are challenging a will or you are an Executor of a will that the subject of dispute. Call today or fill in our online form for a representative to call you back.

Wills and Probate FAQ

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.

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