Disputes about a person’s estate on their death: A guide to contentious probate

Image by Nattanan Kanchanaprat from Pixabay

Amy Barlow (Student)

When someone passes away, what they leave behind forms their estate, made up of property and assets (their possessions). Usually, their estate is dealt with in accordance with their will. Once the representatives of the estate (known as the executors) have received the necessary formal documentation, the estate assets can be shared out in accordance with the deceased’s will. This is the probate process.

Contentious probate (also known as “contested probate”) refers to any dispute that arises during this process, when the validity of a will or the distribution of an estate is questioned. This can be a difficult process for those affected and often requires legal advice.

Disputes can arise for a number of reasons, including, but not limited to:

● Disagreements regarding appointment and actions of the executor of the will

● Lifetime gifts and promises

● Feeling as though you deserve more than you have received (which is common among dependants of the deceased – especially those financially dependent on them)

● Suspecting that the will was made under duress or without proper legal formalities

● Mistakes and other disagreements, for example, mis-valuation of property or ownership

In cases of intestacy, when someone dies without leaving a will, the law sets out who should inherit their assets. This can also lead to disputes and leave family members and those close to the deceased with lots of unanswered questions.

These types of challenges can be raised before or after the distribution of the deceased’s assets but it is beneficial to seek advice as soon as possible. Generally, action is quicker, less costly and, more importantly, is more likely to allow assets to get to where they should be when advice is taken before the assets are distributed and possibly lost.

Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic (SULAC) provides free legal advice on probate matters. If you would like to arrange an appointment with us, please contact:

Email: Sulac@staffs.ac.uk

Telephone: 01782 294800

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