Disputes that have come about from a dead person’s will have increased over the past few years. These disputes are often complex and fraught, all the more so because they happen at a time when emotions are already running high. At Healys Solicitors our specialist litigators have the expertise to deal with any issue. We pride ourselves on making sure they get the right result for you from this ever increasing and difficult area of law.
When a person dies, the new ownership of the assets they leave behind sometimes leads to disputes, and this is the case even if the person has left a will. This area of law is known as contentious probate.
There are a number of ways that a will can be challenged or disputed. Some of the most common ways our litigators have come across (but by no means all the ways) are:
- When the person who made the will (the “testator”) lacked mental capacity when the will was made. This usually happens because the testator was suffering from dementia or some other mental illness. Sometimes it may seem obvious that the testator had or did not have capacity, but this is decided by the Courts according to legal tests that are not as simple as a diagnosis of illness.
- When the testator was improperly or unduly influenced by another person when making the will. This means that the other person applied pressure to the testator to make the will more favourable to that person.
- When the will is what another person has persuaded the testator to make instead of what the testator wanted.
- When the person drafting the will on behalf of the testator was negligent. This might be because the will did not say what the testator wanted it to say, or the will writer failed to use the correct procedure when the will was executed.
- When the will is fraudulent or a forgery.
- When a will has been read in a way that was never intended by the testator. In these cases it is sometimes possible to apply to the Court to have the will rewritten to say what was intended.
- When the terms of the will contradict a promise or commitment made by the testator to someone else. This usually arises where some property is promised to someone in return for work but that property is then left to someone else.
- When a will fails to provide for the family members or dependants of the testator. This usually applies to spouses, civil partners, children or other people who lived with the testator.
- Claims to recover gifts that were made during the life of the testator that might otherwise be part of the estate, especially where undue influence has been used to persuade the testator to give away the property.
As well as claims in respect of wills, Healys Solicitors can also assist with claims arising when the estate is being administered, such as:
- If the executor of the will or administrator of the estate is not doing his job correctly or is not a suitable person to do it, Healys Solicitors can help with an application to the Court to challenge the appointment of that person and have another person appointed instead.
- If the executor or administrator has mishandled the property in the estate, a claim may be possible for breach of trust which may lead to that person having to reimburse the estate for its losses.
Our specialist litigators have years of experience in the field and will look to help through all the stages of your case. Our experienced team members will do all that they can to achieve the result that you want.
If it looks like your desired result may not be possible or will be too expensive to achieve by full Court proceedings, our experienced team will look at ways of reaching a settlement without going to Court. This often saves on costs but may also save the already strained family relationship.
How we helped our clients
Below are some brief examples of how we have helped our clients:
- Bringing a claim against a firm of solicitors on behalf of an intended beneficiary of a will. The solicitor had prepared the will negligently so that the claimants inherited nothing even though the testator had intended them to have a substantial bequest forming the majority of the value of the estate. A substantial payout was made by the solicitors’ insurers before the case went to trial
- Representing a testator’s family member to arrange the removal of the named executor of a will based on his unsuitability to act in that position. The named executor had been involved in a protracted dispute with the beneficiaries prior to the testator’s death, and had previously been found to be dishonest
- Glanville -v- Glanville  EWHC 1271 (Ch) Successfully defended a claim brought by the executors of an estate. The executors alleged that a gift of property made during the testator’s lifetime was made following undue influence exerted by his wife. The court found that there had been no undue influence
- Advising a client whose parents had disinherited him because of untrue statements made about him to his parents by his siblings
- Defending a claim brought by a beneficiary of a will who claimed that the testator had no capacity and did not know and approve the contents of her last will. The claim in the High Court’s Chancery Division arose from a bitter rift in the family, and was very hotly contested with neither side wanting to give ground to the other. Despite this, the claim was settled at mediation shortly before trial
- Application to the court for the sale of a property held in a will trust to allow one of the beneficiaries to access his share of the sale proceeds. The court ordered a sale and made a costs order against the beneficiary who had opposed the sale
- Advising an executor in respect of an asset that had been deliberately transferred by the testatrix before her death to prevent it falling into the hands of her husband under the will. The testatrix had not wanted to reveal to her husband that he would not inherit the property. Following correspondence with the husband’s solicitors his threatened claim for the property to be transferred to him was not pursued
- Advising a litigant on the merits of an appeal following a trial (in which we had not acted) where the client had failed to prove that either of the testator’s last two wills should be propounded. Our analysis showed that the trial judge had been wrong on some points of law, but that an appeal was not worth bringing because the only will that could stand and would have benefitted the client was unenforceable for reasons that had not been identified earlier
- Acting for an executor and beneficiary in proceedings where the testator’s brother had alleged that the will had not been executed properly because the attesting witnesses were not present and together when the will was executed by the testator. Extensive witness evidence was obtained to rebut the allegations, and an application made to the court to prove the will. The claim of improper execution was withdrawn before the proceedings reached trial and the matter settled
- Representing the wife and family of a testator where the family discovered after the testator’s death that most of the testator’s property had been fraudulently transferred to another family member. Included proceedings before the Adjudicator to HM Land Registry to protect the property from disposal before applying to the court to recover the property for the estate.
- Advising an executor where family members who had been bequeathed a share of a property had taken up occupation of it and refused to leave
Our litigators put your clients needs first and will make sure that during this highly emotional time they will get sound, clear, professional advice on whether to proceed with a claim. We always offer a no obligation free consultation on the claim to see if it is viable.