Have you been treated unfairly in a will?

Jan Samuel

If you have been left out of a will, you may be able to bring a claim if:

  • the deceased failed to adequately provide for you, and you are a dependent
  • the will has been badly drafted and the terms are not clear
  • there are doubts about the validity of a will if the deceased was suffering from dementia
  • complications of second marriages and families having competing claims

Disputes about wills and inheritance can arise for a number of reasons and the number of these disputes is continually increasing.

When someone dies, their property and belongings (known as their "estate") will be dealt with either under the terms of a will, or if they died without leaving a will, under the intestacy rules. This is known as probate or administration. 

Usually, the terms of a will are uncontroversial and the deceased's estate can be dealt with fairly easily. However, this is not always the case, and in recent years there has been a marked increase in the number of disputes about inheritance arising after someone has died. 

Who can make a claim when someone has died?

The law says that only certain people can make a claim against the estate of someone who has died.

This is because under the law, there are certain people who are entitled to “reasonable financial provision” from the deceased. If this provision is not made in the will, then a claim can potentially be made. 

The people who are allowed to make a claim for "reasonable financial provision" (subject to some restrictions) are:

  • a husband or wife
  • a civil partner of the deceased
  • someone who has lived in a relationship with the deceased for a least two years before they died
  • any child of the deceased, including adopted children
  • any person who the deceased treated as a child 
  • anyone else who relied on the deceased financially

How long do I have to dispute a will?

The usual rule is that you have just 6 months from the date of the grant of probate, (or the grant of letters of administration if the deceased did not leave a will) to start a claim in court. This is a very tight deadline, and if you are considering bringing a claim about your inheritance, you should contact us immediately. 

What will I receive from an inheritance claim?

The court can make various awards, and will take into account factors such as the length of time the deceased and the claimant were together, as well as the length of time the deceased and the claimant were separated, if that applies. The financial and personal circumstances of the claimant will also be important, as will any evidence of why the will has been drafted in a particular way (either to leave someone out entirely, or to favour one child over another for example).

The court could order that the claimant receives a monthly payment from the estate, property from the estate, or a lump sum payment. The court can also create a trust for the benefit of the claimant. 

How should an executor deal with an inheritance claim?

If an executor is also a beneficiary under a will, the executor may have to step down if there is an inheritance claim. The executor would need legal advice straight away if there is a claim against the estate, to ensure that it is dealt with properly, and to make sure the executor does not breach any of the rules. 

What if an executor has taken money?

An executor has a duty to ensure that the deceased's estate is dealt with accoring to the terms of their will. If an executor takes money out of the estate when they are not entitled to do so, they can be made to repay the money. 

Even if the executor is also a beneficiary under the terms of the will, they still have to make payments at the correct time, according to the law. 

It is possible to take steps to replace an executor, if they are not doing their job properly. We will be able to help you with this and if you contact us, we will assess your issue initally for free. 

How we can help

At Samuels Solicitors, we have a wealth of experience in dealing with inheritance claims, claims against executors, and disputes about wills. We will initially assess any matter for free, and will provide you with a quick appraisal of how we can help.

We understand that inheritance claims and disputes about wills need to be dealt with sensitively, and our recommendation will usually be to seek a mediated or negotiated settlement, rather than going to court. 

We appreciate that legal fees will need to be kept to a minimum, and in some cases involving inheritance disputes, we are able to defer payment of our fees until the matter has been resolved.

At Samuels Solicitors, we have a range of flexible funding options, which we will be happy to discuss with you, so you can find the best option for your case.

If you contact us today, we will be happy to have a free, no obligation discussion, about how we can help you.