1. What Does Contentious Probate Mean?
The term ‘contentious probate’ is used in reference to a wide range of disputes and disagreements that may occur when allocating the estate and assets of a deceased individual to beneficiaries.
Examples of this may include disputes regarding the validity of a deceased person’s will, issues regarding the interpretation of ambiguities in a will, disputes over a place of burial, or disputes regarding the total value of a deceased individual’s estate.
2. What is a Grant of Probate?
A Grant of Probate is issued to enable an executor to legally administer and distribute a deceased individual’s assets to named (or unnamed) beneficiaries. In the event that a deceased person does not leave behind a valid will, a Grant of Letters of Administration is required for the allocation of assets to go ahead, and is issued to each of the personal representatives of the deceased party.
The Probate Registry is responsible for issuing a Grant of Probate, which can take around eight weeks to arrange and receive.
3. Can I Stop a Grant of Probate from being Issued?
If you believe you have a justified reason for doing so, you may be able to prevent a Grant of Probate from being issued. Doing so involves lodging a ‘caveat’ with the Probate Registry against the estate of the deceased, and must be done as promptly as possible to prevent the Grant of Probate from going ahead.
4. What Does ‘Caveat’ Mean?
In the context of contentious probate, a ‘caveat’ is essentially a formal dispute lodged with the Probate Registry, to prevent a Grant of Probate or Grant of Letters of Administration from being issued. You can only lodge a caveat with the Probate Registry if you believe you have a genuine and viable dispute with regard to the allocation/administration of a deceased person’s estate, which (if successful) will remain in place for a period of six months initially.
5. Can I Get a Copy of a Loved One’s Will?
You will only be able to get a copy of a loved one’s will if they formally communicated their consent before passing away. If it does not specify in their final will and testament that you are permitted to see their will, doing so can be difficult, as it is considered a sensitive private document.
It is the responsibility of a deceased person’s personal representatives and/or executors to oversee the administration and distribution of their assets, including whether or not a copy of their will should be shared with anyone else. Following the issue of a Grant of Probate, both the Grant and the will of the deceased individual become publicly available documents.
6. How Will I Know If a Grant of Probate Has Been Issued?
The personal representatives or executors of a deceased person’s estate are not legally obliged to inform you when a Grant of Probate has been applied for or received.
A standing search can be entered at the Probate Registry for a small fee, which will alert you if a Grant of Probate is issued at any point over the next six months. After which, the service can be extended/renewed if required.
7. What is the Executor’s Role?
Executors are hired to take responsibility for the administration and allocation of a deceased individual’s assets and estate. Irrespective of whether or not the deceased party left behind a viable will, their executor plays an important role in ensuring their assets are distributed fairly and legally.
The responsibilities of an executor include collecting and valuing the deceased person’s assets, applying for Grants of Probate (where necessary), ensuring outstanding debts and tax bills are paid, distributing assets in accordance with the deceased’s parties will, and so on.
8. Can an Executor Be Removed After Being Named?
Once an executor has been appointed to handle the affairs of a deceased person, it can be difficult to remove them. However, it may be possible to do so, if you believe you have legal grounds to request their removal.
- Instances where an executor can be removed include the following:
- You believe that they are not performing their duties correctly
- They have deliberately or unknowingly undervalued the estate of the deceased
- Any of the services they have provided have been unprofessional or deceptive
- The executor is of ‘bad character’ (such as having a criminal record)
- They have distributed assets to beneficiaries prior to settling debts
- There is any kind of conflict of interest or indication of bias
- Their ability to perform their services is adversely affected by illness
- You believe they cannot perform their services with complete objectivity
Ultimately, it will be down to the courts to decide whether or not you have just cause to request the removal of an executor. If the court believes it is in the best interests of the deceased and their beneficiaries to do so, an executor can be removed.
9. Is There a Time Limit for Making a Claim?
The amount of time you have to make a claim will vary on the basis of the type of claim you intend to file, and the specifics of the case in question. Most claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 must be filed within six months, but exceptions apply.
Irrespective of the nature of the claim you plan to file, it is important to take action as early as possible, in order to compensate for any delays or disruptions that may be encountered along the way.
10. Can My Claim Be Resolved Outside of Court?
Yes, in fact, most simple disputes regarding probate can be settled without court involvement. At Aristone Solicitors, we provide a broad range of dispute resolution options that can negate both the costs and complexities of bringing contentious probate matters before the courts.
For example, it may be possible to resolve your dispute by way of negotiation or mediation, paving the way for a mutually beneficial agreement with no court involvement necessary. Contact Aristone Solicitors anytime to learn more about the dispute resolution process for contentious probate.
11. How Long Will It Take To Resolve My Claim?
It is impossible to provide even a vague estimate as to how long it may take to resolve your claim, without first assessing the specifics of your case. Every issue involving contentious probate is unique, and timescales vary from one case to the next.
During your initial consultation, we will provide you with a realistic time frame for the resolution of your case, and a full overview of how the process works.
12. How Much Will It Cost to Resolve My Case and Who Pays?
Costs incurred for cases concerning contentious probate vary significantly, in accordance with the complexity of the case. If your dispute is resolved by way of out-of-court mediation, the parties involved will decide between themselves who covers the costs. Where a dispute cannot be resolved externally and court involvement is required, the courts will decide who is responsible for covering the costs incurred.