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Contentious probate solicitors

If there is a dispute or disagreement over someone’s assets after that person has passed away, our contentious probate solicitors are here to help.

What to expect from our contentious probate solicitors

We will advise you whether the claim is likely to succeed and help you to formulate a strategy that protects you and that you are comfortable with in a dispute that may involve close family members.

Our approach includes using alternatives to contested court proceedings including mediation, where appropriate, and not losing sight of the emotional impact the involvement of lawyers can have at such a difficult time.

If you have a dispute or disagreement, or are concerned that one might arise, our expert contentious probate solicitors will guide you. We can also work with you to avoid such issues arising in the future.

Types of contentious probate disputes

Contentious probate matters can include:

  • Contesting or defending a Will
  • Inheritance Act claims
  • Negligence claims against Wills, Trusts and Estate professionals
  • Post death corporate governance, for example:
    • Assisting with company matters following the death of a director or shareholder; and
    • Applying to court to have a director or shareholder appointed in their place.
  • Trust and estate disputes, for example:
    • Actions to remove executors;
    • Applications to court for directions regarding the administration of an estate;
    • Applications for delivery up of assets held by executors/beneficiaries;
    • Citations to accept or refuse probate;
    • Subpoenas to produce wills and testamentary documents;
    • Applications to issue and warn off caveats;
    • Applications for an inventory and account; and
    • Bringing or defending claims by estates.
  • Trust disputes (Note: these disputes can arise in lifetime too), for example:
    • Onshore trust disputes;
    • Offshore trust disputes including Channel Island (Jersey and Guernsey), Isle of Man, BVI, Gibraltar and Cayman Island trust disputes;
    • Actions to remove trustees;
    • Claims for an inventory and account;
    • Disputes between trustees;
    • Disputes between beneficiaries;
    • Claims by or against trusts;
    • Queries regarding trust assets; and
    • Variation of trusts.
  • Proprietary estoppel, resulting and constructive trust claims (Note: these disputes can arise in lifetime too), for example:
    • Claims to enforce broken promises;
    • Claims to enforce unwritten agreements and contracts;
    • Claims over farm and agricultural land;
    • Claims to recover property and assets (resulting trust claims);
    • Claims over land, including claims under the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996;
    • Disputes over family homes;
    • Other equitable claims; and
    • Claims to set aside lifetime transfers by reason of lack of capacity or undue influence.
  • Funeral and burial disputes, for example:
    • Burial disputes;
    • Disposal of ashes;
    • Funeral disputes;
    • Responsibility for dealing with a body; and
    • Disputes over headstones.

Frequently asked questions on contentious probate

  • How to I find out if a Will has been made?

    As obvious as it seems, a thorough search should be carried out of the deceased’s residence. It is worth checking the property, including any places where the deceased may have kept all of their paperwork, or perhaps in an attic or other storage room.

    If the Will cannot be found in the deceased’s property, and you are aware  the deceased used a particular solicitor during their lifetime, it may be that the solicitor is storing the original Will or a copy of the Will for the deceased and so it is worth making enquiries with them. If the firm of solicitors is no longer practising, the Solicitors Regulation Authority may able to assist in ascertaining where the Will is being stored.

    Less frequently, banks store Wills for their customers and so it is also worth making enquiries with the deceased’s banks.

    Finally, you can ask a company to carry out a Will search for a fee. This can identify where the Will is being held and by whom. However it is not compulsory to register a Will and so a Will may be in existence but not return any hits on a Will search.

  • What can I do if a Will goes missing?

    If you know a Will exists but cannot be located, it may be possible to apply to the Probate Registry so that evidence of the Will’s contents can be accepted in place of the original missing Will. A copy of a signed Will can also be used for an application, though you will need to explain why a copy is being submitted in place of an original.

  • Who can contest a Will?

    Anyone can challenge a Will on the basis they do not consider that it is a valid Will If they stand to benefit from the terms of an earlier Will or an intestacy if the last Will is set aside.

    There are, however, only specific categories of people/close family who can bring a claim where they do not feel as though they have been left reasonable financial provision by the deceased. We can advise you accordingly.

  • What is the process for contesting a Will?

    It is always crucial to take certain steps as promptly as possible, including in some circumstances lodging a caveat at the Probate Registry to prevent a Grant of Probate from being obtained.  

    There can be limited time constraints within which you must bring an action, or else there may be an ultimate defence to your claim.

    The steps that follow will depend on a wide variety of factors, but it is expected that the parties will make some attempt at settlement discussions before Court proceedings are issued as a last resort.


  • Can a Will be overturned after probate?

    You can still seek to challenge a Will, or bring a claim provided you are within time limits, after a Grant of Probate has been obtained. It is difficult to achieve practically and particularly where assets of the estate may have been distributed. It is therefore important that as soon as you become aware of a potential challenge to a Will or claim that you take the appropriate next steps without delay.

  • How long do you have to contest a Will?

    The time limit for contesting a Will ultimately depends on what type of claim you are seeking to bring, but it can be as little as 6 months from the date of the Grant of Probate.

  • Who pays to contest a Will?

    This is something that will be decided on by a Court if the matter goes to a trial. Usually, the losing party would pay the winning party’s costs, but that is not always necessarily the case. There can be certain instances where the winner can pay the loser’s costs, or alternatively the costs can come out of the estate.

    If a settlement can be reached before a trial, the parties can decide between them as to how the costs will be paid as part of any settlement.

  • Is my Will dispute suitable for mediation?

    Most Will disputes are settled without the need to either go to Court or for there to be a trial. The majority of Will disputes are suitable for mediation, or some other form of alternative dispute resolution where the parties’ focus is on trying to settle the matter.

  • How can I stop a Will from going to probate?

    If you have a legitimate concern as to the preparation of one or more of the Deceased’s Wills, you can enter a caveat in the estate at the Probate Registry. This prevents a Grant of Probate from being obtained. The caveat can be ‘warned off’, in which case you can either allow the Grant of Probate to proceed or enter an appearance. As soon as you enter an appearance, the caveat becomes permanent and it will remain in force until the matter is resolved.

  • What is a Larke v Nugus statement or Larke v Nugus letter?

    A Larke v Nugus request is a letter sent to the firm of solicitors which drafted a Will requesting further information and documentation in relation to the circumstances in which the Will was prepared. Solicitors are typically expected to comply with the request in order to assist you in ascertaining what happened when a particular Will was prepared and to assist with your investigations in relation to the validity of a Will.

  • What happens if there is no Will?

    If the deceased died without leaving a valid Will their estate would be administered under the Intestacy Rules. These rules dictate who inherits the estate and in what shares. In general terms, those entitled to inherit are surviving spouses and children. If there is no surviving spouse or children then parents, siblings and more distant blood relatives would inherit.

Our contentious probate solicitors

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David McGuire

Principal Associate

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