What is Contentious Probate? Navigating the Challenges of Contentious Probate

When a family member or loved one dies, it can be a difficult time for everyone involved.

There can be legal matters that everyone must face, no matter how grief-stricken you may be.

One legal term you may have heard is contentious probate – this is an umbrella term that relates to any disputes regarding a deceased person’s estate. 

In this guide, we will dive deeper into a probate contest and what is involved with it from a legal standpoint. 

What is a contentious probate?

Contentious probate refers to the legal conflicts and disputes that can arise in the process of settling a deceased person’s estate. 

These disputes often revolve around the validity of the deceased’s will, the distribution of assets, or the administration of the estate. 

Contentious probate cases may involve challenges to the legitimacy of the will.  

Disputes can also emerge regarding the appointment of executors or administrators, leading to conflicts among family members or interested parties. 

Contentious probate encompasses a range of legal conflicts that require resolution through court proceedings 

These proceedings will usually involve the help of solicitors who specialise in family law.

That way, they can determine the rightful distribution of the deceased person’s estate.

Find out more about our services for wills, trust and probate.

working through contentious probate

How do you deal with contentious probate?

Dealing with contentious probate can be done with an agreement between the parties involved. 

If no agreement can be made, the case will go through the courts to determine an outcome.

Seeking professional advice from an experienced probate solicitor who has worked on similar disputes is crucial. 

As solicitors in Southport, we can provide guidance on the relevant laws, assess the validity of the will, and outline potential courses of action. 

Mediation may be attempted to facilitate discussions among involved parties and potentially reach a resolution outside of court.

figuring out contentious probate

If an amicable agreement cannot be reached, legal action may be required.

Legal proceedings will be initiated to address specific issues, such as will validity or asset distribution disputes. 

Maintaining clear communication between you and the involved parties is essential throughout the process. 

Keeping detailed records, including all relevant documents and correspondence, can help build a strong case. 

Types of contentious probate disputes

There are quite a few common probate disputes that may arise, these include: 

  • Validity of the Will – Disputes may emerge regarding the validity of the deceased person’s will. Challenges may be based on allegations of undue influence, lack of capacity, or improper execution of the will.
  • Inheritance Act Claims – Beneficiaries or dependents may contest the distribution of the estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act, arguing that they have not been adequately provided for in the will.
  • Executor or Administrator Disputes – Issues can arise concerning the appointment or actions of the executor or administrator responsible for managing the estate. This may involve allegations of misconduct, negligence, or a breach of fiduciary duty.
  • Caveats and Probate Disputes – The lodging of a caveat can delay the probate process, and disputes may arise over the grant of probate, particularly if there are concerns about the authenticity of the will or the appointment of the executor.
contentious probate
  • Fraud or Forgery Claims – Allegations of fraud or forgery may be raised, challenging the authenticity of the will or specific signatures, leading to disputes over the distribution of assets.
  • Asset and Property Disputes – Conflicts may arise over the identification and distribution of specific assets, especially when there are ambiguities or disagreements regarding the deceased person’s intentions.
  • Challenges to Lifetime Gifts – Disputes may occur if there are concerns about gifts made by the deceased during their lifetime, particularly if there are allegations of undue influence or lack of capacity.
  • Intestacy Disputes – When a person dies without a valid will, disputes may arise over the distribution of assets according to intestacy laws, especially if there are disagreements among potential heirs.
  • Professional Negligence Claims – Beneficiaries may bring claims against professionals involved in the probate process, such as solicitors or executors, alleging negligence or malpractice.
  • Family Relationship Disputes – Issues may arise due to disputes over familial relationships, including questions of paternity or challenges to the legitimacy of certain beneficiaries.

Can a Family Contest Probate?

Yes, families can contest probate under certain circumstances. 

Contests often arise when family members believe there are grounds to challenge the validity of the deceased person’s will or if there are concerns about the fairness of the distribution of assets. 

To contest probate, you’ll typically need to file a legal challenge in court, providing evidence to support their claims. 

It’s not uncommon for siblings to contest the will of deceased parents. 

Emotions can be heightened in situations such as these and if a sibling feels like they got a considerably less amount than their other siblings they may dispute the validity of the will.

solicitors for contentious probate

This may cause a sibling to lodge a caveat against the deceased parent’s estate.  

This caveat prevents the issuance of the Grant of Probate. Doing so impedes the administration of the estate until the dispute is resolved. 

If the Grant of Probate has already been acquired, there may be a request to suspend estate administration during investigations, directed at you or the estate’s personal representatives. 

It’s recommended that personal representatives remain impartial to any claim and, consequently, consider halting estate administration to mitigate personal liability for distribution. 

While personal representatives are expected to be neutral, as a beneficiary, you have the option to defend against claims made by your siblings actively.

Who pays for contentious probate?

The standard practice dictates that each party pays for their own expenses throughout the legal process. 

Upon the conclusion of the case, the Judge determines the party responsible for covering the costs, typically adhering to the principle that the unsuccessful party bears the financial burden for both sides. 

Nevertheless, in numerous instances, these costs may be allocated from the estate itself.

How long does a contentious probate take?

The duration of contentious probate proceedings can vary widely and is influenced by many factors, including:

  • The complexity of the case.
  • Number of involved parties.
  • Nature and extent of the disputes.
  • The efficiency of the legal process.

In straightforward cases, a solution might be achieved within a few months. 

But more intricate and contested matters can extend the process significantly, spanning several months or even years. 

Delays may occur due to court schedules, the need for additional evidence, and the intricacies of the legal arguments presented. 

It’s also worth noting that attempts at mediation or settlement can influence the timeline. 

what is contentious probate

Contentious probate solicitors – Brown Turner Ross

When a loved one leaves their estate and assets to their family, they can turn into complex ordeals.

Family structures can vary and the relationship between them isn’t always amicable. That’s why a contested will can involve a lot of difficult emotions. 

We understand that going through these kinds of processes can be tough. We’ve helped many people in similar situations.

From the most complex cases to the most straightforward. Each case is unique and presents its own challenges.

As a family law firm, we can relate to this subject wholeheartedly, which is one of the main reasons we’re able to help our clients when it comes to contentious probate. 

Our expert team of family solicitors can help you navigate these complex processes, allowing you to feel more safe and secure from a legal standpoint.
Contact our experienced team and we’ll help you find the legal support that is right for you.