A dispute over the distribution of the estate of someone who has died can be a difficult and stressful situation.
We are one the few firms in the area that has the experience and the specialist knowledge to be able to advise on such claims.
We can advise you whether your circumstances justify a claim. And if you find yourself (as an Executor or beneficiary) having a claim made against you, we can assist you in defending it.
Such claims are not always straight forward.
Each case needs to be looked at carefully and we will be very happy to see you to advise on the position.
There are two main ways to challenge how an estate is being distributed:-
Challenging the validity of a Will
For a Will to be valid:
- It has to be to be properly executed with two witnesses present when the Will is signed.
- The person making the Will needs to have sufficient mental capacity to understand what they are doing
- They must not be under the undue influence of a third party.
It is always worthwhile checking all these points. If there is any doubt, it is quite appropriate for us as solicitors to write to the solicitors or parties who had drawn up the Will to see their file and attendance notes so we can see the circumstances in which the Will was made.
Inheritance Act Claim
Often the more powerful approach is to consider if the distribution of the estate can be challenged under the Inheritance (Provision for Family Dependants) Act.
Under this act certain people are entitled to make a claim should the Will (or the distribution of the estate under the intestacy rules) not make a reasonable provision for them.
In particular the spouse or former spouse of the deceased can make a claim if reasonable provision has not been made for them.
A person who has cohabited with the deceased for more than two years is also entitled to make a claim and these claims can be significant where there has been a long cohabitation and the lack of a Will has meant the estate goes to a distant next of kin.
A child of the deceased (or a person who was treated as a child of the family) can also mount such a claim. The law relating to the circumstance in which that can be done is a developing area of law with a number of recent cases.
Finally a person who has been maintained by the deceased may have the right to make such a claim.
Making such a claim or defending such a claim (if you are dealing with the administration or are a beneficiary) involves an understanding of how the courts apply a fairly complex area of law.
If you think you have such a claim or such a claim has been made against the estate we would advise you to come and see us as soon as possible.
It is important to know that claims of this nature must normally be made within 6 months of the Grant of Probate so if you are intending to mount such a claim, it is very important that you come to see us as soon as you can.