12th May 2021

Resolving probate disputes

We are an increasingly litigious society and inheritance can be a highly sensitive area. Disputes arise no matter what the circumstances or perceived value of an estate. Without proper guidance some disputes can cause years of ongoing distress. Swift resolution will only stand to benefit all parties whether that’s through mediation or as a last resort court proceedings.

‘Inheritance and trust’ disputes cover lots of different matters and are not easy to define in a snappy definition! On the whole, they are disputes that arise following someone’s death – although not always. The most common type of claim is from someone unhappy with what they have been left and wish to challenge the terms of the will, claim financial provision from an estate, or dispute the ownership of assets in the estate.

Disputes can also arise in the process of administering an estate. For example, if an Executor or trustee does not carry out their duties properly, or if individual beneficiaries cannot agree how the estate should be wound up - arguing over the decision as to whether to sell or retain land or assets.

When winding up an estate sometimes illegalities are discovered, often from when the deceased was still alive, but perhaps lacked capacity. Sadly, cases of misconduct of Attorneys appointed under Lasting Power of Attorneys to look after a vulnerable persons’ assets and finances are increasing. But claims can be brought against these individuals even following their charge’s death.

Disputes more often than not happen within families so are highly personal. We have to understand the dynamics of the family to truly understand their motivations and what they are trying to achieve via the dispute. Also, our aging population and the increase of degenerative mental health issues, such as dementia, means there’s more scope for vulnerable people to be taken advantage of.

Some cases we have worked on recently include:

  • acting for beneficiaries to bring a claim for breach of trustees’ duties in respect of a multi-million pound trust
  • defending a multi-million pound claim for financial provision by a widow under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act
  • challenging lifetime and post-death gifts due to an individual’s lack of capacity
  • acting for a beneficiary to defend a challenge to a will due to undue influence
  • acting for a beneficiary in a successful appeal of a claim for professional negligence arising out of the way in which a will was drafted
  • acting for a beneficiary in a dispute about the administration of the estate, and making a successful application to court to remove the Executor

For more information contact Emily Prout on eprout@thrings.com

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