Contested wills

Making a Probate Claim, Disputing a Will or Making an Inheritance Act Claim

From the outset it is important to understand that like any other potential dispute, contested Wills and Probate claims must be handled in such a way to try and avoid the issue of court proceedings, in accordance with the Civil Procedure Rules 1998, and CPR Part 57 applies to all such claims.

In addition, it is necessary to also ensure that the rules and procedure relating to non-contentious probate, the Non-Contentious Probate Rules 1987 as amended, are also considered in the early parts of any dispute given the jurisdiction of the Probate Registry to deal with numerous applications that the other party could try to make.

The most usual approach is for the parties in the dispute to adopt the Code of Practice known as the ACTAPS code (www.actaps.com) as it provides a useful set of guidelines as to how to proceed, in order to best consider:

  • Identifying those other persons who must be parties to the claim or whose interests will need to be represented
  • Sending of Letters of claim and responses
  • Disclosure of documents, including the need to obtain documents such as medical records
  • Obtaining (possibly jointly) expert evidence
  • Negotiations and Mediation at all stages of the dispute. 

There are numerous time limits applicable to the making of contested wills and probate claims such as claims under the 1975 Inheritance Act and claims for rectification of a Will, which must be commenced within 6 months of the Grant of Probate or letters of administration.

There are also a number of defences available to the personal representatives of an estate that can successfully defeat an otherwise potentially good claim including change of position, delay and acquiescence, relief of liability for breach of trust and there is a long stop time limit of 12 years from the date when the estate is considered finally administered and complete for anyone seeking to bring a claim for a share in the estate. It is essential for early specialist legal advice to be taken in order to assess the nature and prospects of all potential claims that may exist.

As part of the Best Value Probate service we will handle all matters sensitively and explore with you the most cost effective options available to fund the costs of making or defending a claim with you. To get in touch just call us on 0800 038 6677, use the contact form, or email us.