Unfortunately, there are sometimes disputes involving estates when there has been a death, both in cases where the deceased has left a will and where they have not (and are therefore, “intestate”)
These are examples of the types of dispute that can arise:
“She didn’t know what she was signing”. – Capacity and Duress
Claims that the deceased did not understand the effect of their will because he or she lacked the necessary mental capacity at the relevant time, or was put under pressure by someone to make their will in particular terms. Basically, a person making a will must do so of their own free will, and have sufficient understanding of what they are doing. Otherwise, any resulting will is invalid.
“They gave away the Ming vase”. – Poor Administration
These may be claims that executors or administrators of the estate are not carrying out the administration of the estate properly, if the deceased assets are not protected by them, or the value of the estate is reduced because of their lack of care.
“He left her nothing”. – Inadequate provision
These are claims that the will or the intestacy rules do not make adequate provision for someone such as a close family memebr or a co-habitee. Under English law, a person can make a will in any terms they wish; and if there is no will, then statute law governs who receives what. There are categories of person who may apply to the court, if they can show that they should have received something from the deceased’s estate, or that the legacy they have received should have been larger.
“She said she’d make a will leaving it all me!”. – Estoppel
This is a claim where the deceased may have made promises during life, which are contradicted by the will, or by the fact that they did not even leave a will. This might happen, for instance, when someone has agreed to work unpaid for the deceased on the understanding that they would receive something specific, by way of benefit, under the will.
Our contentious probate team are accustomed to advising clients on issues relating to these difficult and sensitive case. “Contentious probate” matters can be very stressful for our clients, who may be struggling to deal with bereavement, at the same time as having to make decisions on complex legal issues, which will need to be addressed very urgently if the disadvantaged person’s legal rights are to be protected.
If you think you may have such a claim, or are an executor facing a possible claim, please contact Yulia Barnes or Ann Astbury.