Resolving Wills, Inheritance, Trusts & Probate Disputes

Specialist legal advice to help you navigate complex family disputes

“Empathetic and effective. Faced with an extremely distressing case, we really appreciated Claire’s kind, straightforward and professional approach. Always quick to respond to queries, understanding our anxieties and achieving the desired outcome in a timely manner.”

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Resolving Will & Inheritance Disputes

The death of a loved one can be an incredibly difficult time. Emotions run high and expectations of what might happen upon a person’s death could be far from the reality. 

Inheritance disputes are more common than you might think. Blended families can often make decisions about dividing estates more difficult. As the average estate size has grown over recent years, the stakes are high with more people being motivated to pursue a claim.

Our specialist Inheritance Disputes team receives superb reviews for their skill in handling both the legal and emotional aspects of disputes in this area, and are dedicated to resolving disagreements in a fair and thoughtful manner.

Understanding Inheritance Disputes

There’s many situations where a person may find themselves in an inheritance dispute, where you could be making or defending a claim:

  • If you believe that you have been unfairly left out of a Will or think that a Will does not reflect the last wishes of the person who died then you may be able to make a claim against the estate. 
  • If there is evidence of coercion or undue influence being placed on the deceased when they made a Will then this could also be grounds for a dispute.
  • If you are concerned that the deceased did not have mental capacity to make a Will 
  • If there is no Will then the strict rules of intestacy will apply. However, if you were financially dependent on the deceased then you may be able to make a claim based on The Inheritance Act 1975 if you were not provided for.
  • Executors, those that have been granted responsibility to administer a person’s estate after their death, can become involved in disputes if there are questions about their actions. Or if there is more than one executor then there could be disagreements between executors.

There are many other scenarios where inheritance disputes could occur. Our team has broad experience both making and defending claims on behalf of clients and are happy to talk to you about your own circumstances and let you know if we can help you resolve your dispute.

Inheritance disputes and the law

A person’s wishes upon their death are protected heavily in UK law, meaning a person has the right to do what they wish with their wealth and possessions on their death, as outlined in their Will. However, the Courts do have the power to make changes to how the estate is distributed, if certain people connected to the deceased have not been provided for. Typically these are spouses, partners, children (including adult children) and those financially dependent upon the deceased.

If you have been excluded from a Will or believe the inheritance you have received is insufficient to meet your financial needs, you may be able to make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975. This allows you to make a claim against the deceased’s estate for ‘reasonable financial provision’.

What is considered reasonable financial provision will depend on the circumstances, but the general principle is that an Inheritance Act claim allows dependents of the deceased to cover the cost of financial assistance and other types of support they would normally have received from the deceased. We can help you assess whether or not you might have a claim.

An Inheritance Act claim can be made where there is a Will or an intestacy. 

 

Common Causes of Inheritance Disputes 

Some of the most common reasons that inheritance disputes occur are caused by:

  • Poorly written or DIY Wills that could be deemed to be invalid
  • Out of date Wills that could be seen as not representative of a person’s true last wishes upon their death.
  • Evidence of coercion, undue influence or questions around the mental capacity of the deceased person when the Will was written
  • A breakdown in the relationship between co-executors, or questions raised about the actions an executor is taking.
  • Significant family members being excluded from a Will without explanation
  • There is no valid Will when a person dies.

How We Resolve Inheritance Disputes

At Hedges, we will work with you to tailor our approach, depending on the personalities of those involved, the family dynamics, and the desired outcome. For example, you might prefer to take a more conciliatory approach to preserve relationships. In some cases, it might be more appropriate to take a very robust stance. It is important to recognise that every situation is different and each case needs to be handled in a bespoke manner, to achieve the best possible outcome.

Mediation can be a particularly effective method for certain situations. It can provide everyone a chance to talk through the issues via the mediator, and contribute to a non confrontational conflict resolution. It entails both parties getting together with a trained mediator, who is responsible for actively brokering an agreement between the parties respective positions, and reach a compromise. It is rare for the parties to actually see each other, the mediator moves between the rooms, and they are often now held online.

The disagreement might need to be resolved in Court if mediation fails to assist the parties to come to an agreement. The judge will make the final decision after hearing from all parties involved in the case.

There are many solicitors who deal with these types of disputes as part of a mixed caseload of a variety of different matters, without specialist knowledge. These claims are very complex, niche and often unpredictable. For this reason, at Hedges we have a team dealing only with inheritance disputes for our clients, and our lawyers have undertaken specialist accredited training through the Association of Contentious Trusts and Probate Specialists course.

Resolving a probate dispute

Similar to inheritance or Will disputes, probate disputes may arise for a number of reasons. You may wish to stop the probate process or you may have been promised property by the deceased that has been left to somebody else in their Will.

Whether you’re making a claim or a dispute, our expert Dispute Resolution solicitors in Oxford and Wallingford have experience dealing with an extensive range of probate matters and pride themselves on their pragmatic, straight talking and jargon-free approach. This will undoubtedly be a stressful time and our team is here to work closely with you to find a resolution to each issue you’re facing.

 

Case Studies: Our Success in Resolving Disputes

A life changing victory for two minors

We helped a family where two young boys with special needs were left living in cramped and unsuitable accommodation after the sudden death of a parent. They were left with no money for their school fees so would have had to have moved schools at a time of immense grief and turmoil when the estate passed outside of the family.

The case went to Court and they were awarded with the money they needed for better accommodation and their school fees – which was life changing for them.

Warring beneficiaries

In this case, there were three brothers who were in a dispute about property after the death of their father. One of the brothers lived in the house with their elderly father until he died and had lived there for more than 30 years. The estate, including the property, was to be shared equally between the three brothers, but the brother that had been living in the house wanted to remain in the house and receive a larger share of the money, claiming the other brothers didn’t need it.

This dispute was resolved through online mediation.

Claims against Executors 

This dispute involved a granddaughter who had been left an inheritance by her grandmother. The executors of her grandmother’s estate were her three adult children. It transpires that one of them had taken our clients money and spent it. We pursued this person to Court and obtained a judgement against them which also included the payment of all of our costs.

Our Team’s Expertise in Inheritance Disputes

Claire Cox – Head of Inheritance Disputes

Claire is an experienced lawyer who specialises in inheritance disputes, trust disputes and contentious probate. These include claims against estates, such as disputes between Executors or Trustees, estate administration issues, breach of trust, and claims around Will validity.

She is also an Associate Member of ACTAPS, (The Association of Contentious Trusts and Probate Specialists) which is the industry recognised qualification for lawyers specialising in contentious trust and probate work. Claire places a great deal of importance upon being a lawyer who clients can quickly place their trust in. 

Ella Swanwick – Solicitor, Inheritance Disputes

Ella Swanwick, Trainee Solicitor, Disputes Team at Hedges Law

Ella specialises in inheritance, wills and trust disputes. She joined the team after working in our private client team supporting clients with probate, estate administration, and Wills. Her in-depth knowledge of Wills and estate administration is invaluable to our clients and her thorough and tenacious approach is appreciated by clients.

Ella is currently undertaking the ACTAPS qualification.

What Our Clients Say: Testimonials

“Claire was extremely professional and also warm and friendly. Her knowledge was impressive and helped me decide how to move forward. Claire came highly recommended to me and I’m very grateful to have found her to help me.”

“Brilliant. Like many people, I needed legal help during a very challenging time in my life. Claire, Ella and the team made this process as easy as possible, always giving me all the information, trying to limit the costs, and reassure me. They are incredibly professional and knowledgeable…I felt safe in their hands and they worked amazingly to get me a resolution when I had doubts there was one! I had total faith in them from the very start…and cannot recommend them highly enough.”

“Balanced and considered advice. Claire helped me recently with a tricky case and was totally brilliant. She cut to the chase and saw the case for what it was. It was a small claims case and so I was always mindful of escalating costs but Claire was utterly transparent throughout the process. She gave me the confidence to go to court and WIN. 100% recommended.”

There has been a huge increase in inheritance disputes in recent years. More than 2,300 Will disputes have been heard in the High Court in the past 10 years, and this doesn’t include the huge amount of claims that are settled outside of Court. These kinds of disputes, often between family members, can be very complex as well as being extremely stressful for everyone involved.

More than half of adults in the UK do not have a Will in place. This can put people in a precarious financial situation, forcing them to file a claim for financial support from the estate. Additionally, DIY Wills can be challenging to manage and may wind up creating just as many issues as not having a Will at all. 

Conflicts over inheritance can become emotional, and often result in serious arguments and upset, particularly if those involved see the dispute as an assault on the memory of the deceased. This can seriously strain relationships and lead to family members from becoming estranged causing long term or permanent damage.

It is best to seek guidance as soon as you can so you understand the law involved. By knowing what your options are, you can reduce the potential effects of the conflict. This could help keep disputes from escalating and cut down on the amount of time, effort, and money needed to settle the conflict.

Mediation/Alternative Dispute Resolution

We advocate non-Court options wherever possible, as going to Court can be expensive, slow and time consuming. Mediation is an excellent option for many inheritance disputes as it allows you to come to an agreement amicably and could help you to preserve valued family relationships. Equally, every case is different and sometimes that might mean that negotiations by telephone or letter are more effective, there is no one size fits all and we give each client tailored advice.

We pride ourselves on giving bespoke advice to each client, depending on their preferred outcome, budget and whether they wish to preserve relationships. We frequently provide advice behind the scenes to give clients the knowledge they need to take action themselves, as we understand that often what is most important is clarity and understanding.

Going to Court

Although Court litigation is often the last resort, our team is highly experienced in Court cases, always fighting tenaciously on behalf of our clients. They have a proven track record of excellent outcomes and dozens of happy clients where winning a case had life changing results.

Frequently Asked Questions

Read our Wills, Inheritance, Trusts & Probate Disputes FAQs here.

If you have any questions about your particular circumstances, do not hesitate to get in touch to talk to the team about ways we could help you.


Our Specialists

Our dispute resolution experts

Rachel Harwood, Legal Assistant, Disputes Team at Hedges Law

Rachel Harwood

Legal Assistant

Ella Swanwick, Trainee Solicitor, Disputes Team at Hedges Law

Ella Swanwick

Solicitor

Dispute resolution pricing

We understand the importance of having clear information and transparency about the cost of your legal advice.

Details of our pricing will always be provided from the outset and once our team has an understanding of your legal needs, you will receive a detailed summary of the expected cost, as well as any payment options available. Please contact us to find out more.

Get in touch

Contact our expert team for an initial, no obligation discussion on
01865 594265 or email us at hello@hedgeslaw.co.uk