Inheritance disputes and probate problems are more common than most people imagine. These types of disputes can lead to irretrievable breakdowns in family relationships, not to mention the fact that they are stressful and expensive. This is one of the reasons why we would always advise people to have a professionally drafted Will setting out what they want to happen with their assets after they die.
Although having a Will can often help to avoid disputes, sometimes disputes arise despite the Deceased having made a Will, for example, if there is a question over the Deceased’s capacity to make the Will or if there is a suggestion that the Deceased was unduly influenced by a third party into making the Will.
It is also possible for certain persons, including a surviving spouse, unmarried partner, or child, to make a claim against a Deceased’s estate for “failing to make adequate financial provision” for them.
Resolving Probate Disputes without Litigation
When PowellsLaw assists someone with a disputed probate or inheritance dispute, court proceedings are very much the last resort and we would hope that matters can be resolved through negotiation or some other form of alternative dispute resolution (“ADR”), such as mediation.
Disputes pursued through the civil courts tend to be extremely costly and can run for several months or years. If you have read Dickens’ Bleak House, you will be familiar with the fictional Jarndyce vs Jarndyce probate dispute that plodded on for so long the whole estate was swallowed by legal fees. This is not as unusual as you may think.
It is also worth bearing in mind that legal fees are not always paid out of the Deceased’s estate. If your claim reaches court and you are ultimately unsuccessful, not only will you have to pay your own legal costs, but you are likely to be ordered to pay your opponent’s costs as well.
We will firstly discuss the specific circumstances of your claim, or any claim being made against you, either personally or as an executor of someone’s estate, to assess the merits and to advise you on the most appropriate next steps. At that stage, we will provide you with an estimate of costs so that you can decide whether the claim is worth pursuing, or indeed whether you are able to fund the claim. It is likely that we will then write to the other party setting out the position with a view to negotiating a settlement or agreeing to mediate. Only if all such attempts prove unsuccessful will we advise you to issue a claim in the civil courts.
The Litigation Process
Throughout the process and as soon as we are instructed, we aim to be supportive whilst advising you on your options for achieving a fair (and realistic) outcome (ideally while maintaining relationships with other family members if at all possible).
If litigation appears to be the only option, we will be completely clear about your prospects of success and/or any issues we foresee with your case. We will also keep you updated on our fees and provide you with a clear estimate of potential costs so you can make an informed decision.
If you require advice on a Will, probate or inheritance dispute, it is important to act quickly and to obtain proper legal advice at an early stage before assets are distributed.