What can I do about a will dispute?

A helpful guide to contentious probate & solving disputes over wills that explores how to contest a will or deal with contentious probate.
Wed 31st May 2017

This page outlines some of the common issues that can arise over a contested will or contentious probate matters. Whatever your situation, contact us for a free, no-obligation, confidential chat and we can explore your situation in more detail.

How to contest a will: Do you feel you have been left out of a will unfairly?

Following the death of a loved one, if you have been left with less than you consider is fair or you have not been provided for at all following the death of a loved one, you may be able to make a claim against the estate.

Depending on your relationship to the deceased, you may also be eligible to make a claim for ‘reasonable financial provision’ under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975, In order to do so, you need to be:

  • The husband, wife or civil partner of the deceased;
  • The former husband, wife or civil partner of the deceased;
  • A Child or person treated as a child of the deceased;
  • A cohabitee living in the same household as the deceased for two years before the death; or
  • A dependant of the deceased. 

By making a successful claim under the Act, you could receive a lump sum payment, a monthly sum or the transfer of an asset such as a house or land. We can advise on what you could expect to receive if your claim is successful.

Be aware that a claim under the 1975 Act must be made within six months from the grant of probate, which is when someone is given legal authority to administer the deceased’s estate according to their will. You therefore need to act quickly.

Did the deceased die without leaving a will and you have been left little or nothing as a result?

If the deceased had no will, their estate will be divided according to Intestacy Rules, which dictate how their assets are divided. Unfortunately, these rules can sometimes cause problems as they make no provision for payment to common law spouses, cohabitees or step-children that haven’t been adopted.

You may, however, be able to make a claim for reasonable financial provision under the 1975 Act (as explained above).

We can advise on whether you are eligible to make a claim and the chances of being successful.

I was made a promise by the deceased but it is not in their will – what can I do?

It may be that the deceased promised to leave you a certain asset or sum of money but this was not in fact included in their will. Relying on this promise, you may have made changes to your detriment, such as giving up work or selling your own house to move in and care for the other person. We can advise you on whether you have a claim based on such a broken promise and the prospect of you getting what you were promised from the estate.

Are you concerned that a will may be invalid?

SA Law’s experts are able to review the will and the circumstances in which it was made and advise you whether there are grounds to challenge its validity.

The will of a deceased person may be invalid because the deceased:

  • Lacked the necessary mental capacity to make a will, for example because they suffered from dementia or another mental illness;
  • Didn’t understand or approve the contents of their will;
  • Was unaware that they were signing a will; or
  • Was unduly influenced or pressurised into signing, particularly if they were elderly or vulnerable for another reason.

A will may also be invalid if the strict requirements for making one were not followed, such as a failure to have two witnesses present during the signing or if the signature is a forgery.

If you are concerned about a will’s validity, we can obtain further information from the solicitors who drafted it and, if required, obtain medical records to investigate your concerns further. We also have close working relationships with experts in psychiatry and handwriting who can provide evidence to build your case.

Are the executors taking too long to administer the estate?

Estates can take up to a year to administer and this can sometimes be frustrating for beneficiaries. That said, an executor may be taking unnecessarily long to act and, in certain cases, may be unable to carry out their duties.

You can apply to have the executors removed or obtain a court order to progress the administration properly. Even a simple robust letter from us reminding the executors of their responsibilities may be all it takes to get the estate administered promptly.

We can advise on your options in disputes over the role of executors and trustees, particularly if you feel as though the personal representative is acting in their own interests rather than in the interests of the estate.

Has a claim been made against an estate you are administering?

Generally speaking, anyone administering an estate should remain neutral in disputes between the actual and potential beneficiaries. However, you may personally receive a complaint or claim about the way the estate is being administered. In this situation, we can advise on the most appropriate response, the potential costs of doing so and help you to resolve the issue swiftly.

For more information about how SA Law can help you with the administration of an estate, click here.

Are you involved in a wills dispute claim and want to know more about funding options?

The first thing to do is check your current insurance policies to see if you have any legal expenses cover that might pay legal costs in this situation.

If you don’t have legal expenses cover through an existing insurance policy, SA Law may be able to offer one of our funding options to help you. These include:

  • Fixed fees, where we agree a set fee for each stage of your matter, including an initial review and our initial advice.
  • Conditional fee agreements (sometimes called ‘no win, no fee’), where we agree to defer all or part of our fees until the outcome of the matter. This will include payment of an additional success fee if you win (either by winning at trial or settling on terms that result in a payment for you).
  • Specialist litigation funding loans that are available for people making or defending claims. We work with a specialist broker to help you obtain a loan at a favourable rate, and can discount our fees by the same percentage as the interest rate to make it even more affordable.

Before offering a funding option, we will need to assess the merits of your claim and will offer a fixed fee for doing so.

We will advise you on the costs risks of proceeding with a case and on the prospect of recovering your costs from the estate of the deceased or from your opponent. We can also help you to obtain insurance cover to cover your liability to pay your opponent’s costs.


If you would like more information or advice relating to this article or a wills dispute matter, please do not hesitate to contact Clare Mackay on 01727 798025.  

What our clients say

“Commentators highlight Clare Mackay for her precision and efficiency as a litigator. She….is also described as a "very dependable pair of hands" for work involving individual clients”Chambers & Partners 

“Clare’s professionalism has been outstanding, but more importantly her compassion, kindness and understanding of my situation goes far beyond that. She has been very sympathetic throughout and worked extremely hard to get the best possible outcome for me and I am glad that it was her who was dealing with my case” - Mrs N

“Having spoken briefly to Clare Mackay, I knew she was the only person to deal with my father’s estate issues, none of which were straightforward. My intricate case is now fully resolved and I know that is in no small part down to Clare’s patience, serenity and of course legal prowess”Ms S

"Clare managed to give me this great confidence and trust that really brought closure to my case" - Chambers & Partners

Speaking on behalf of us all, we can’t thank you enough for your brilliance in steering us through this and coming to todays conclusion. It’s a huge relief to us for it all to be over and we thank you so much, for your understanding and hard work. We are ever thankful to have found you" - Ms H

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Every care is taken in the preparation of our articles. However, no responsibility can be accepted to any person who acts on the basis of information contained in them alone. You are recommended to obtain specific advice in respect of individual cases.