There are grounds for making a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, where certain classes of family members can bring a claim if they consider that the will, or the law relating to intestacy, is not such as to make reasonable financial provision for them. The criteria for such claims are strict and these matters can be complex, but successful claims can be made. It is important to note however that time limits are short, and any such claim must be brought at Court within 6 months of probate being granted.
Claims and disputes relating to the estate of a family member following their death are increasing. This is thought in part to be due to the rise in the value of most people’s biggest asset - their home. There can also be competing interests where there have been subsequent marriages and second families.
Where the deceased has left a will, this is of course the starting point. Any letters of wishes, whilst not binding, will be taken into account. And of course in some cases there is no will at all, and the general rules of intestacy will apply.
If you need advice on any potential dispute, please contact a member of our dispute resolution team.
Proprietary Estoppel claims can arise in certain cases, where a disappointed party claims that the deceased promised them something, which then did not materialise in their will (or no will was made). It can sometimes be something as simple as the father saying “one day son, all this will be yours” and then cutting his son out of the will completely, or “giving” somebody a piece of land, but not carrying out the necessary formalities to legally complete the transaction. Again, these claims are complex and a successful claimant will need to be able to demonstrate that the deceased:
- Made a promise to them
- That they relied on that promise
- That they have suffered a detriment (incurred cost etc)
Resulting or Constructive Trust claims can arise if there are issues over the legal ownership of property, where one party has contributed (either financially or practically) but their contribution is not reflected in the legal title. For example where one unmarried cohabitee contributes to the purchase or upgrade of a property, but the house remains in the other partner’s sole name and that person dies and does not leave the property to the other.
In some cases, it may be possible to challenge the will itself, on one of the following grounds.
- lack of “testamentary capacity”;
- lack of knowledge and approval;
- issues concerning the valid execution or preparation of the will;
- undue influence/duress;
- fraud or forgery
Farms can be the source of dispute, where siblings have different needs and wishes which cannot be met without selling assets, or even the farm itself. Or, the will didn't distribute the assets as promised or expected.
We also have experience in dealing with other Contentious Probate matters, such as
- Disputes between executors, or problems with executors exercising their duties
- Disputes between beneficiaries
- Issues relating to the interpretation of the will