Contesting A Will - Wills and Probate solicitors dealing with disputes over Trusts, Wills and Estates in Dorset
Coles Miller can help when there is a dispute concerning Trusts, Wills and Estates
Whether you are bringing a claim or defending one, our expert solicitors can offer straightforward and sympathetic advice. Our litigation team works closely with our Private Client / Probate department to provide specialist advice outlining all the available options and, guide you to a favourable resolution, in all aspects of disputes concerning Trusts, Wills and Estates
We can help with disputes involving:
Inheritance Act Claims
Even if a Will is valid, an Inheritance Act claim can be made by a dependant who does not believe that they have been sufficiently provided for by the Will. Any such claim should be made within a period of six months from the date of the Grant of Probate.
Validity of Wills
The validity of wills can come into question for a number of reasons-
For a Will to be valid the person making the Will must have sufficient mental competence. ‘Testamentary capacity’ means that the person has sound mind, memory and understanding. However, because there is no legal definition that a person lacks ‘testamentary capacity’, it is difficult to prove that this is the case, even if that person has suffered from mental illness. It is therefore usual for disputes concerning lack of mental capacity to require the involvement of a medical practitioner, but the court will also consider non-medical evidence such as relationships with family and friends and the contents of previous Wills.
If someone is coerced or compelled into signing a will then it can be invalid. A person must make a Will voluntarily. Such disputes must be proved and clear evidence of undue influence is required.
A Will must be in a proper form, should be in writing and must be signed and witnessed correctly by two independent witnesses in accordance with the Wills Act 1837. Disputes often arise from home made wills in particular. Also, the increased use of cheap internet wills or unregulated will writing companies has led to an increase in these types of claims.
Fortunately not widespread but it can happen. Executors need to be vigilant and any suspicious circumstances should be checked by a solicitor without delay.
Disputes regarding Lifetime Gifts
These can affect both tax implications for the estate and how the assets are to be distributed
Breach of trust
These cases can involve issues such as where a Trustee does something which is not authorised by the Trust document or Willor by the law governing Trusts law, or where a Trustee negligently or carelessly does something (or fails to do something) which adversely affects the Trust assets or the beneficiaries in a negligent or careless way; or where the Trustee does something which amounts to him advancing his own interests above the interests of the trust beneficiaries. This is generally known as ‘self-dealing’.
Recovery of property
By Executors or beneficiaries in order to give effect to the terms of a Trust or Will.
Disputed administration of estate claims (Executor disputes)
Sometimes, people will appoint more than one person to act as joint executors to administer their estate. This can lead to disputes arising between executors on how the deceased estate is distributed or managed. Or if you feel the executor appointed to manage a loved one’s estate is not acting in a fair and proper manner, or indeed if you are an executor and would like advice or guidance on how to protect yourself from claims brought by beneficiaries, we can assist.
Relate to competing claims by persons for a variety of reasons. These issues may also be relevant to Trusts claims and claims brought under the Inheritance Act.
Claims against professional advisors
These claims can occur for a variety of reasons and against a variety of persons. A solicitor or other professional (including non-qualified will writers) must ensure an estate is administered in accordance to the law. They must ensure that a will is validly signed and witnessed, and is free from any errors that may invalidate the will. If they fail to do so then the executors are entitled to bring a claim for professional negligence for financial loss suffered as a result. Such claims can also be brought against professional or corporate Trustees for failure to properly administer a Trust.
Disputed Powers of Attorney
Enduring Powers of Attorney (EPA) and Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA) which replaced EPAs in 2007, must be registered with the Court of Protection for them to become valid. EPA’s in particular were often not formally registered which made them vulnerable to abuse or fraud. If you believe an EPA has not been registered and is being used where a person is incapacitated, we can provide advice. Similarly if you believe that a power of attorney has been signed in inappropriate circumstances, for example under duress, or if you wish to challenge an attorney on specific actions that they have taken please contact our specialist solicitors.
If you are concerned about a Will or Trust and would like advice or assistance with any of these areas please contact Simon Steele-Williams.