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Inheritance disputes are on the rise. Here are some top tips if you face a possible dispute.

If you are considering bringing a claim

  1. Establish the foundations.
    Understand the circumstances of making, signing and witnessing the Will. Crucially check if a later Will was made or the Will revoked. A later Will, marriage or civil partnership will in most cases revoke an earlier Will.
  2. Identify who to contact.
    Sometimes the executor of a Will is also the main beneficiary. Do not solely focus on dealing with an executor and overlook the need to involve the main beneficiaries.
  3. Delay risks.
    Time limits apply to certain inheritance dispute claims, such as a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975 has to be made within six months from the date of Grant of Probate. Also, if you delay, estate assets may already have been distributed under the Will you wish to challenge.
  4. Avoid tunnel vision.
    You may be focused on one issue, for example, if the Will was a result of undue influence, or the person lacked capacity. However have in mind that other aspects may also be relevant. Misappropriation of funds during the person’s lifetime, or the Will being signed and witnessed incorrectly are not uncommon.

If you are an executor or beneficiary

  1. Don’t ignore matters.
    Avoid the temptation to ignore a challenge. Believe it or not this does happen but these matters rarely go away if ignored.
  2. Keep track of different hats.
    You may wear the hat of executor, or beneficiary or both. Keep track of your decisions and actions – the dispute will need to be approached differently depending on which hat you wear.

In all cases

  1. Don’t add fuel to the fire.
    Emotions can be high. Calm heads and cool composure are advised as well as obtaining professional advice early on.
  2. Carefully chose legal representation.
    Inheritance disputes have different rules to general litigation. Ask your lawyer if they have dealt with many cases similar to your own. A firm whose lawyers are members of the Association of Contentious Trust and Probate Specialists (ACTAPS) will have experience and expertise to help with an inheritance dispute case.
  3. Caveats.
    These block the issue of a grant of probate. It is not always wise to apply for a caveat or rush to warn one off. A claimant should think carefully before applying for one, and an executor carefully before applying to warn one off.
  4. Ask your lawyer about ADR (alternative dispute resolution).
    Many cases can be resolved without the need for a court battle.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.