FAQs – Wills, Inheritance, Trusts & Probate Disputes

Disputes involving Wills, inheritance, trusts and probate can be complex and confusing. As a specialist contentious probate litigator, I have years of experience successfully supporting people through a range of disputes in this area, so get in touch to understand more about your personal situation.

I have been left out of a Will – what can I do? On what grounds can I contest a Will?

A Will can only be contested once the person who made the will has passed away. There are a number of grounds upon which a Will can be challenged.

These include:

  • A lack of mental capacity of the testator (the person who’s Will it is) when the Will was written.
  • Any undue influence being placed upon the testator; if any pressure has been placed on them when making the Will.
  • Lack of due execution, when the formalities that must be followed have not been, such as if the Will has not been properly signed or witnessed.
  • The testator had no knowledge or did not agree to or approve the terms of the Will they signed.
  • If the Will is fraudulent or a signature has been forged.

If you are a family member or a dependant of the deceased, we can advise you in relation to bringing a claim against the estate. 

I believe I have evidence to contest a Will. How long does it take to challenge a Will?

If it is taken to trial and is decided in Court, it could take several years. When you contest a Will, you should be prepared for this, however, frequently these disputes are settled out of Court, through mediation. 

If you want to contest a Will, we can advise on how to start the process.

Who can challenge a Will?

This will depend on the circumstances, but generally those who may be able to challenge a Will include:

  • People named as beneficiaries of the Will
  • Dependants of the deceased not named in the Will
  • People named in a previous version of the deceased’s Will
  • People whom the deceased made a verbal or other written commitment to leave a bequest to, but who were not named in the Will
  • Is there a time limit for contesting a Will?

Is there a time limit for contesting a Will?

This depends on the nature of the dispute. If you wish to make an Inheritance Act claim, you will normally need to do so within 6 months of probate being granted. However, if you wish to challenge a Will on the grounds of fraud, there is no time limit for doing so. It is, however, usually advisable to press on with the matter sooner rather than later as it may be difficult to recover funds that the executors have already distributed.

Do you need to go to court to challenge a Will?

In most cases, disputes over Wills, inheritance and probate can be resolved out of court, using Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) methods, such as mediation. Mediation involves the various parties involved in the dispute meeting with a trained mediator who acts as a neutral third-party to facilitate discussion of the dispute.

Using mediation and other ADR methods can typically allow contentious probate matters to be resolved faster and at lower cost compared to relying on court proceedings. This non-confrontational approach also usually helps to keep conflict to a minimum, which can be important where the dispute is between family members who want to preserve a positive relationship going forwards.

I am a beneficiary of a Will, but the executor is not sharing information with me in relation to the estate. What can I do?

We can obtain information for you and provide legal advice regarding the trust that you are the beneficiary of, including:

  • How the trusts have been invested and if this has been carried out correctly.
  • Acquire any information that you have asked for but not received such as trust accounts.
  • Investigating whether the trustees appear to have used any trust assets for their own benefit.
  • The way in which the trustees are administering your trust.

A property which I have an interest in has been left to somebody else in a Will. The deceased promised me it would be mine and I contributed to it, what can I do?

It is incredibly common for promises made not to be recorded in writing, and for people to contribute to properties they live in but do not have their name on the title. 

If there is no written agreement then it could be that there was a “common intention” between you and the other party that you would be entitled to a share in the property. This is called a constructive trust.

If you were promised a share of the property, and you had confidence in this promise, then you could make a claim to the Court that this promise should be upheld. This is called proprietary estoppel.

Our specialist team can advise whether either of these would apply. 

I can’t find a Will, but I think there is one. How can I find out if someone made a Will?

If you have checked the deceased person’s paperwork and cannot find a Will, or perhaps you believe that the one found is not the most up to date copy, there are a few things you can do. 

It’s best to start by checking with family members to ask if they are aware of a Will existing. Then, it is worthwhile checking with local solicitors. You may find details of solicitors that the deceased had previously instructed in their paperwork.

You can also search the probate registry through the GOV.UK Find a Will page, or the Will Register.

We can advise on your specific situation if you cannot find a copy of a Will.

Can you stop probate?

Yes. If you wish to stop probate from being granted, you can do so by entering a ‘caveat’ at any Probate Registry for a small fee. This prevents probate from being granted for 6 months, unless the Caveat is withdrawn or removed by the court.

You can extend the Caveat at any time and as many times as you like, meaning probate can effectively be stopped indefinitely, giving you time to resolve the dispute at hand.

Can you challenge a Will after probate?

This depends on the nature of the challenge. As mentioned above, Inheritance Act claims need to be brought within 6 months of probate being granted. Since probate typically takes longer than 6 months, the window for bringing an Inheritance Act claim will typically have expired by the time probate is complete.

However, as also mentioned above, if you wish to challenge a Will on the basis of fraud, there is no time limit for doing so, meaning you can still bring a claim long after probate has been completed.

I am the executor of a Will. The other two executors do not agree on how to manage the estate – how can we move forward?

We always recommend disputes are kept out of Court, when possible. Often, any issues can be resolved by discussion and correspondence between the parties, or through the appointment of an independent solicitor to administer the estate. 

We can advise you on the merits of making an application to the Court for the removal of the executors and administrators. This is not a straightforward process though and specialist advice should always be taken. 

How can I protect my estate from claims and prevent any possible disputes?

A professionally drafted Will is the best way to protect your estate. At Hedges, we pride ourselves on our collaborative approach. Our Will writers Will work directly with our dispute resolution specialists to take all steps necessary to avoid a future dispute where one might be anticipated. 

Talk to us

If you would like any advice on resolving Wills, Inheritance, Trusts & Probate Disputes, or understanding the grounds for contesting a Will then do not hesitate to get in touch with our dedicated inheritance disputes team.