What is Contentious Probate?
Alice Ashurst and Ben Marsden, 17th November, 2020
When a challenge is made to a Probate process, this is known as Contentious Probate. In this article we set about explaining what is meant by Contentious Probate and what it might mean for you.
When someone passes away, what they leave behind forms their Estate, which is made up of all of their property and possessions (their assets). Their Estate should then be dealt with in accordance with the terms of their Last Will and Testament (if they had one) and the relevant law. In the event that no challenges are raised to the Will or the administration of the Estate, formal documents called Grants of Probate or Letters of Administration can be obtained by the representatives of the Estate (called Executors, Personal Representatives or Administrators). Once that has been obtained, the Estate assets can then be shared out. That is the Probate process in the case when there are no disputes.
Raising a challenge to the Probate process
When a challenge is raised to this Probate process, it is said to be Contentious Probate (also known as “Contested Probate”). Sometimes the Will isn’t as expected, a loved one is not sufficiently catered for by a Will or there are doubts regarding the validity of the Will.
Practically, disputes like this mean that the Probate process will involve the extra step of resolving those challenges.
In this way, Contentious Probate is a broad area including will disputes, disappointed beneficiary claims, arguments about how an estate is being administered (or delays in administration) and allegations of undue influence. Often this involves concerns about the deceased’s Last Will and Testament or concerns about how the Estate assets will be distributed.
These types of challenges can be raised before or after assets of the Estate are distributed, though it is important that those with an interest in the Estate take proper advice as soon as possible particularly where they are concerned about any of the circumstances. Generally, action is quicker, less costly and more likely to result in assets getting where they should if advice is taken before assets are distributed and potentially lost.
Whatever the nature of the dispute, Contentious Probate is an area of increasing importance for those who could inherit assets from an Estate and those who have a duty to administer an Estate. The rising value of property and Estates can mean that an awful lot is at stake. The outcome of these disputes can have a huge financial impact on beneficiaries hoping to inherit assets and on the representatives of the Estate who can be personally liable to beneficiaries. The risks and the benefits of successfully resolving a Contentious Probate dispute can lead to rising complexity and temperatures for all involved.
Whether it is a case of seeking advice or in dealing with a potential claim, at Gosschalks we act for those who raise challenges to the Probate process and those representing Estates.
How we can help you
If you have any enquiries, queries or concerns in this area then our Contentious Probate solicitors will be happy to help and to find out more about your specific situation. The process begins with talking to an experienced specialist. By listening to you describe all of the relevant details we aim to gain the best possible understanding of your circumstances so we can both provide reassurance and get you the best outcome possible.