Here are some frequently asked questions about contentious probate.
What is contentious probate?
- Contentious probate refers to legal disputes surrounding the administration and distribution of a deceased person's estate, often involving issues like contesting a Will, concerns about how an executor is acting, or disputes among beneficiaries.
Am I entitled to see a copy of the Will?
- Only the executors named in the Will are entitled to see it before a Grant of Probate is issued. If anyone else asks for a copy, all of the executors must agree for it to be disclosed.
- Once a Grant of Probate has been obtained, the Will becomes a public document and can be obtained from the Probate Registry.
- If a Grant of Probate isn’t required, for example if the estate was a small one, then the Will does not become a public document.
When should I consider contesting a Will?
- You may consider contesting a Will if you believe it is invalid, forged, or if there are concerns regarding the mental capacity of the deceased at the time of making the Will.
- We can help you to assess whether your concerns have merit, and how best to proceed with a claim.
How long do I have to contest a Will?
- Certain claims have a six-month time limit starting from when Grant of Probate issued. For other claims, there is a much longer period in which you can bring a claim. You should contact us as soon as possible if you are concerned or upset about an issue concerning an estate.
Can I do anything to prevent a Gant of Probate being issued?
- If you have concerns about the contents of a Will or the manner in which it was made, you can apply to the court to enter a ‘caveat’. Entering a caveat prevents someone else from obtaining a Grant of Probate without you first being given the chance to object.
- During that time, we can assist you by working towards a meaningful resolution to your claim.
Will I know if a Grant of Probate has been issued?
- Executors of an estate are not legally obliged to inform you when a Grant of Probate has been applied for or when it has been issued.
- However, it is possible to set up a standing search at the Probate Registry. For a small fee, this search will notify you if and when a Grant of Probate is issued during a 6-month period, at which point a decision can about how best to proceed with your claim.
Can I challenge an executor's decisions?
- Yes, if you believe an executor is not fulfilling their duties or acting improperly, you can challenge their decisions through legal channels. For example, you can apply to have the executors removed or obtain a court order to progress the administration properly.
- Sometimes, all it takes is a strongly worded letter from a solicitor’s firm reminding the executors of their responsibilities to ensure the estate is administered properly.
- We can advise on your options in disputes over the role of executors, particularly if you feel as though they are acting in their own interests rather than in the interests of the estate.
Can I mediate a contentious probate dispute?
- Mediation is a viable option and can help by offering a quicker and more cost-effective way to deal with a dispute. If one side refuses to mediate, it may result in the court penalising them at the end of a claim regardless of the result. However, if an agreement cannot be reached through mediation, then legal proceedings may be necessary.
How long does a contentious probate case typically take?
- Timeframes can vary dramatically and it is impossible to provide an estimate as to how long it may take to resolve your claim, without first assessing the specifics of your claim.
- During your initial consultation, we can provide you with a realistic time frame for the resolution of your case, and a full overview of how the process works including likely costs.