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Contested Probate and Will Disputes

The time immediately after the passing of a loved one is never easy.  It is a hugely emotional and highly charged period and, while it is the when family and friends come together to remember and celebrate the deceased, it is also a time where a series of complex and often difficult decisions will need to be made.  

Unfortunately as these decisions will involve finances, assets, property and cherished heirlooms, they can all too often descend into painful disagreements.  

The disagreement could be over the way different people have interpreted certain parts of the Will, over the valuation of the Estate or over whether or not it is felt the Estate is being managed efficiently.  They could arise between beneficiaries (or those who feel they should be) or between surviving family members and friends who feel the Will has not represented their interests or met their expectations correctly.

As there is so much to take care of and as everyone involved is, quite rightly, going to be distracted, our experience is the common default is to pass any disagreement over to the family solicitor to sort out.  After all it is likely this will be the solicitor who has written and been charged with executing the Will.  Surely that level of knowledge means that they are the safest possible pair of hands?

Not necessarily.

As with all areas of the law, the highest likelihood of successfully reaching the conclusion you want is reliant on specialism rather than familiarity.  This is not a statement designed to question the level of expertise required to write a robust Will, in fact it is the reverse.  Constructing Wills and trust structures that will underwrite your wishes and make sure your families are looked after as well as they can be is an art that can only be perfected with the requisite hours of training, practice, understanding and experience.

However if a dispute does arise, its successful resolution demands a very different set of skills.  

If you find yourself in dispute with a family member or a family friend over the execution or management of a Will, there is a strong likelihood that there will be something of substantial importance at the heart of that dispute, whether the value is financial or sentimental.  This makes it even more vital for you to reach the best possible outcome and reaching the best possible outcome requires the services of an experienced, specialist litigator rather than a traditional private client solicitor.   

Before you instruct anyone to help you resolve a dispute involving a Will or contested probate here are the 3 things you must check:

1.    Make sure they have the in-depth understanding of the relevant law so they can immediately start using that understanding to your best advantage

2.    Make sure they have the experience required to create the robust series of strategies needed to  overcome the potential obstacles experience has taught them to expect

3.    Make sure they can demonstrate a successful track record in winning similar disputes for people in situations just like yours

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MLA 2017 18 Shortlisted 2