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Will Disputes Solicitors

Will Disputes Solicitors

Clear & compassionate guidance

Will disputes can be challenging and emotionally taxing.

Whether you are dealing with family will disputes, contesting a will after probate or facing contentious probate issues, our experienced solicitors are equipped to handle every aspect of your case. At Walker Foster, we understand that will-related disputes can deeply affect families and lead to significant emotional and financial stress. Our team of expert will disputes solicitors is here to provide clear, professional and compassionate guidance during this difficult time.

Will disputes in the UK often arise from disagreements over the validity of a will or the distribution of estate assets. Our specialist team will help you understand your rights, whether you are questioning the mental capacity of the person making the will or dealing with allegations of undue influence. With our expert legal advice, we aim to resolve matters swiftly and effectively, minimising the impact on you and your loved ones.

At Walker Foster, we prioritise your peace of mind. Our approach to contentious probate is rooted in transparency, professionalism and a deep understanding of the probate process. We strive to ensure that every will is properly executed and that all beneficiaries receive reasonable financial provision. Trusted by generations, we are committed to offering personalised legal support to help you resolve your will dispute efficiently and effectively.

Contact us today to learn how we can assist you with your will dispute. Our friendly and professional team is here to guide you through the legal complexities and help you achieve a fair resolution.

How Walker Foster Can Help You

At Walker Foster, we understand that will disputes can arise from various circumstances, and deeply affect families when this happens. Our experienced solicitors specialise in handling all aspects of will disputes, ensuring your concerns are addressed with sensitivity and expertise.

We offer comprehensive legal advice and representation across a number of key areas, including:

At Walker Foster, our approach is rooted in providing you with the support and information you need to make informed decisions. We are committed to resolving will disputes with minimal stress and disruption to your life, always prioritising your best interests and those of your family.

What Are the Grounds for Contesting a Will?

Contesting a will is a serious legal action that can be based on several grounds. Understanding these grounds is crucial for determining whether you have valid cause to seek legal advice and make a claim.

Here are the most common grounds for contesting a will:

  • Lack of testamentary capacity: if the deceased did not have the mental capacity to understand the nature and effects of making a will at the time it was executed, this could be a reason to make a claim. Medical records and witness testimonies are often necessary to support this claim.
  • Undue influence: if you believe that the deceased was pressured or coerced into making a will that does not reflect their true intentions, you can contest the will on the grounds of undue influence. This often involves proving that the influencer had a dominant position over the deceased.
  • Fraud or forgery: a will can be contested if it is believed to be forged or created fraudulently. This could involve proving that the signature was forged or that the contents of the will were altered without the deceased's knowledge.
  • Improper execution: for a will to be valid, it must comply with specific legal requirements set out in the Wills Act 1837. If the will was not properly signed or witnessed, it can be contested on the grounds of improper execution.
  • Lack of knowledge and approval: this ground applies when it is believed that the deceased did not fully understand or approve the contents of the will. This can occur if the will was signed under misleading circumstances, or if the deceased was unaware of the will’s details.
  • Rectification and construction claims: if there is a clerical error or a mistake in the drafting of the will that does not reflect the deceased’s true intentions, a claim can be made to rectify or construe the will correctly.
  • Lack of provision: under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, certain family members can bring a claim for financial provision if they feel the will does not provide for their needs.

Understanding the grounds for contesting a will is essential for building a successful claim. At Walker Foster, our contentious probate team has extensive experience in dealing with all these grounds and can provide the specialist advice and representation you need.

Who Can Challenge a Will?

Not everyone has the legal standing to contest a will. We can provide expert advice on whether you have the right to challenge a will and the grounds on which you can do so.

Individuals who can challenge a will include:

  • Beneficiaries under the will: if you are named as a beneficiary in the will, you have the right to contest it if you believe it is invalid or if you feel the will does not reflect the true intentions of the deceased.
  • Beneficiaries under a previous will: if you were named in an earlier will but omitted from the most recent one, you may have grounds to challenge the new will, especially if you suspect it was created under undue influence or without the required testamentary capacity.
  • Individuals entitled under intestacy rules: if the deceased did not leave a valid will, the estate is distributed according to intestacy rules. Individuals who would inherit under these rules, such as spouses, civil partners, children and other close relatives, may challenge the will if they believe it is invalid.
  • Dependants: those who were financially dependent on the deceased can challenge a will under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 if they believe the will does not provide reasonable financial provision for them. This can include spouses, civil partners, former spouses or civil partners (who have not remarried), children, anyone treated as a child of the family, and anyone being maintained by the deceased before their death.
  • Executors: executors named in the will can challenge it if they believe it was not properly executed or if there are concerns about its validity.

Determining who can challenge a will and on what grounds requires careful legal assessment. Contact us today to discuss your situation and learn how we can assist you with your will or inheritance dispute.

How Do I Contest a Will?

Contesting a will involves a structured legal process that requires careful navigation and expert legal advice. At Walker Foster, our will disputes solicitors are here to guide you through every step of contesting a will, ensuring that your case is handled with the utmost professionalism and sensitivity.

  1. Seek expert legal advice: the starting point should always be to seek legal advice from a solicitor experienced in will disputes. Our team at Walker Foster will evaluate the merits of your case, advise you on the grounds for contesting the will, and outline the legal process involved.
  2. Gather evidence: building a strong case requires comprehensive evidence. This may include medical records, witness statements, previous wills and any documentation that supports your claim of undue influence, lack of testamentary capacity, fraud or improper execution.
  3. File a caveat: to prevent the grant of probate while you investigate the validity of the will, you can file a caveat at the Probate Registry. This stops the probate process temporarily and gives you time to gather the necessary evidence and prepare your case.
  4. Pre-action protocol: before issuing court proceedings, parties are encouraged to follow the pre-action protocol. This involves exchanging information and attempting to resolve the dispute amicably through mediation or negotiation, which can often save time and legal costs.
  5. Mediation and negotiation: wills disputes can often be settled through mediation, without needing to go to court. This is a less formal process where an independent mediator helps the parties reach a mutually acceptable agreement.
  6. Issue court proceedings: if the dispute cannot be resolved through mediation, you may need to issue court proceedings. Your solicitor will prepare and file the necessary legal documents, setting out the grounds for your claim and the relief you seek.
  7. Court hearings: if mediation is unsuccessful, the case will proceed to court hearings. The court will examine the evidence, hear witness testimonies, and consider legal arguments before making a decision.
  8. Final hearing and judgement: at the final hearing, the judge will make a ruling based on the evidence and legal submissions. If your claim is successful, the court may declare the will invalid or make adjustments to the distribution of the estate to ensure reasonable financial provision for eligible applicants.

Contesting a will can be a complex and emotionally draining process, but with the support of Walker Foster's specialist team, you can get through this challenging time with confidence. Our solicitors provide clear, expert legal advice and robust representation, ensuring that your case is presented effectively at every stage.

Our Approach to Will Dispute Resolution

At Walker Foster, we prioritise a pragmatic and sensitive approach to resolving will disputes. Our contentious probate team understands the emotional and financial stress involved in these matters and is dedicated to achieving fair and timely resolutions.

We understand that each will dispute is unique. Our solicitors provide tailored legal advice, taking the time to understand your specific situation and the complexities involved. We strive to ensure that you are fully informed and confident in your legal options, maintaining clear and open communication throughout the process.

Whenever possible, we encourage mediation and negotiation to resolve disputes amicably. This approach can save time, reduce legal fees, and minimise the emotional impact on family members. However, if mediation and negotiation do not result in a resolution, our team is highly experienced in managing court proceedings, and we will provide robust legal representation to make sure that your case is presented effectively and your interests are protected.

We will always provide clear guidance on the costs involved in contesting a will, including information on conditional fee agreements, legal expenses insurance and funding options. We aim to offer cost-effective solutions while ensuring the highest quality of legal service.

Perhaps most importantly, we recognise the emotional toll that will disputes can take. Our team offers compassionate support, helping you navigate the stress and uncertainty of the dispute process with sensitivity and care. Our goal is to achieve fair and just outcomes for our clients, preserving family relationships wherever possible.

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Why choose Walker Foster?

Standing out while fitting in

We strive for excellence

We care about our clients

We empower our people to make a difference together

Choosing the right legal partner is essential when dealing with will disputes and contentious probate matters. Walker Foster stands out with our unwavering commitment to providing personal, empathetic and professional legal services, making us the best choice for your will dispute needs.

With a heritage that stretches back to 1919, our firm has long been a trusted part of the local communities we serve. Operating from offices in Skipton, Barnoldswick, Silsden, Settle, Ilkley, Northallerton and Harrogate, we bring a nuanced understanding of both the local and broader legal landscapes to every case. This local expertise, combined with our comprehensive knowledge of UK will disputes, positions us uniquely to offer effective and relevant legal solutions.

Our team of will disputes solicitors and contentious probate solicitors are fully regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), and we have a proven track record of achieving successful outcomes for our clients. Trust us to handle your will dispute with the expertise and compassion that have made us a trusted legal partner to our clients and local community for over a century.

Whether you are dealing with will disputes, inheritance disputes or estate disputes, we are here to help. Our expert legal team will guide you through the complexities of the probate process and ensure that your interests are protected.

Contact our legal experts today to discuss your will dispute, and get the legal advice and support you need during this challenging time.

Meet our Head of Department - Luca Angarano

Luca received his LL.B Law Degree with honours from the University of Derby and has been a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives since 2021, specialising in Litigation and Dispute Resolution.

Luca is passionate about helping clients to resolve their legal disputes in a time and cost-effective manner. He prides himself on quickly being able to identify the issues in dispute and the scope for settlement in each of his cases. By working closely with his clients to understand each dispute and to understand what each client is looking to achieve, this allows Luca to focus on arguing his clients’ cases robustly, yet he is always reminded to try settle each matter at all stages to avoid protracted and costly court proceedings. 

Luca provides a tailored service to all of his clients by working in a way that suits their personalities and the nature of their case. He enjoys working in Litigation and Dispute Resolution because its varied nature allows him to practice in many interesting areas of law.

Luca is half Italian but grew up in East Yorkshire and has spent his career practicing in Yorkshire. Prior to working in Litigation and Dispute Resolution, Luca worked in Conveyancing and gained a solid grounding in non-contentious land matters that has proved to be of great assistance to him when dealing with contentious land matters. Out of the office Luca is always perfecting his pizza skills and he can be found exploring the Yorkshire Dales with his two Siberian Huskies.

FAQs About Will Disputes

How long do I have to make a claim?

The timeframe for contesting a will is critical, as strict deadlines apply. Missing these deadlines can result in losing your right to challenge the will.

  • Claims under the Inheritance Act for reasonable financial provision must be made within six months of the date of the grant of probate. This act allows certain individuals, such as spouses, civil partners, children, and dependants, to claim if they believe the will does not make adequate provision for them.
  • If there is a clerical error or a mistake in the drafting of the will, a claim for rectification also must be made within six months of the date of the grant of probate.
  • The time limit for other types of claims, such as those questioning the validity of the will based on lack of testamentary capacity or improper execution, generally follow the six-month rule after the grant of probate. However, in some circumstances, the court may allow claims to be brought after this period if there are compelling reasons.
  • For claims based on allegations of fraud, forgery or undue influence, there is no specific time limit.
  • If you are a beneficiary or a creditor making a financial claim against the estate, you have 12 years from the date of death to make a claim.

Acting promptly can help prevent the estate from being distributed according to the contested will, making it easier to address your claim. Timely action also allows for better collection of evidence and witness testimonies, which are crucial for building a strong case. While courts may grant extensions in certain cases, it is not guaranteed. As such, early action increases the likelihood of your claim being heard.

How can I obtain a copy of the will?

Obtaining a copy of a will is a crucial step in understanding its contents and determining if there are grounds for contesting it. There are various ways of securing a copy:

  • From the executor: if you are a beneficiary or have a legitimate interest in the will, you can request a copy directly from the executor of the estate. The executor is responsible for managing the deceased's estate and should provide you with a copy if you are entitled to see it.
  • After probate is granted: once probate has been granted, the will becomes a public document. You can obtain a copy from the Probate Registry. This is the most straightforward way to access the will if probate has already been issued.

If probate has not yet been granted, the will is not a public document, and obtaining a copy can be more challenging. In such cases, you may need to seek legal advice to understand your rights and the best way to proceed. Sometimes, it may involve writing to the executor or the solicitor who holds the will, requesting a copy.

Certain individuals, such as the deceased's spouse, civil partner, children and other close relatives, typically have the right to view the will. If you fall into one of these categories, you should be able to obtain a copy.

Seeing the will helps you understand how the estate is to be distributed and whether you have been adequately provided for. It also allows you to identify any irregularities or grounds for contesting it, such as undue influence or lack of testamentary capacity. Having a copy of the will should be considered essential for your solicitor to provide accurate and informed legal advice.

Can you contest a will after probate has been granted?

It is possible to contest a will after probate has been granted, although it can be a more complex process. Time is of the essence when contesting a will after probate; the sooner you act, the better your chances of successfully challenging the will.

You will need to take the following actions:

  1. File a caveat: even after probate has been granted, you can file a caveat with the Probate Registry. This prevents further distribution of the estate while your dispute is being investigated. A caveat is typically valid for six months but can be renewed.
  2. Gather evidence: collect all relevant evidence to support your claim. This might include medical records, witness statements, previous wills, and any documents that show undue influence, fraud, or lack of testamentary capacity.
  3. Consider mediation: even after probate, mediation can be a valuable tool to resolve disputes without going to court. An independent mediator can help the parties reach a mutually acceptable agreement.
  4. Issue court proceedings: if negotiations and mediation do not resolve the dispute, you may need to issue court proceedings. Your solicitor will help you prepare the necessary legal documents and represent you in court.

If the estate has already been distributed, recovering assets can be more complicated. The court may need to order the return of distributed assets or compensate from remaining estate assets. This is why it is vital to seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity.

How can you tell if somebody lacked capacity to make a will?

Determining whether someone had the capacity to make a will is a crucial aspect of contesting a will. The person making the will must have understood the nature of the document, the extent of their estate, and the claims of those who might expect to benefit.

To have testamentary capacity, a person needs to fulfil the following criteria:

They must have understood that they were making a will and the effect of the document. This includes knowing that the will disposes of their property upon death.

They should have a general understanding of the nature and extent of their estate. They do not need to know every detail, but they should have a reasonable appreciation of their assets and liabilities.

They must be aware of the people who might reasonably be expected to benefit from their estate. This includes recognising their obligations to dependants and potential beneficiaries.

They must not suffer from any delusions that influence their decisions regarding the distribution of their estate. Any mental disorder that affects their understanding can be grounds for contesting the will.

Contesting a will on the grounds of lack of testamentary capacity requires thorough investigation and expert legal guidance. At Walker Foster, our contentious probate team is experienced in handling such cases and can provide the support and representation you need.

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