Overview

Dealing with the administration of an estate can be stressful.  Whether you are an executor or a beneficiary, our team of contentious probate solicitors are on hand to advise you.

What is contentious probate?

Contentious probate is any dispute relating to the administration of a deceased person’s estate, whether it involves a dispute over the value of assets, the interpretation of a will, or dealing with difficult executors or feuding beneficiaries.

We aim to resolve contentious probate disputes quickly and cost-effectively and have significant experience in dealing with all manner of contentious probate issues.

Key contact

Roman is a partner and head of the contested wills, trusts and estates team. He advises across the whole spectrum of private client litigation, with a particular focus on high value, complex and cross-border disputes including: trust disputes, breach of trust claims and applications to remove trustees; will disputes, particularly those with an international element; claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975; and claims for equitable relief under proprietary estoppel, constructive trusts and resulting trusts.

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Our experience

Executor disputes and applications to substitute and remove executors
 

Disputes can arise between executors or administrators (collectively referred to as “personal representatives”) at any stage of an estate administration. This can involve disputes over the value of assets, the suitability of executors, costs for which executors can charge and any other concern over an executor’s actions. Our contentious probate lawyers have significant experience in dealing with all manner of executor disputes.

Our experience includes:

  • bringing and defending applications under s.116 Senior Courts Act to pass over an executor;
  • bringing and defending applications under s.50 Administration of Justice Act 1985 to substitute or remove an executor;
  • applications to court for directions regarding the administration of an estate;
  • applications for delivery of goods held by executors;
  • citations to except or refuse probate and subpoenas to produce testamentary documents;
  • applications to issue and warn off caveats; and
  • applications for an account.
Disputes between beneficiaries
 

In the aftermath of a loved one’s death it is not uncommon for emotions to run high and disputes between beneficiaries are, sadly, not uncommon. Our contentious probate lawyers have significant experience and a proven track record of delivering timely and cost-effective results in a pragmatic and sensitive manner.

Our experience includes:

  • instructing experts to value assets;
  • issuing subpoenas for testamentary documents;
  • applications to court to determine value of assets retained/taken by beneficiaries; and
  • bringing and defending contentious probate claims by or against beneficiaries.
Claims by or against the estate
 

As an executor, you stand in the place of a deceased person which also means that any claims relating to the deceased can be brought against you. Additionally, it may be necessary for you to consider bringing a claim if it is in the best interests of the estate and its beneficiaries to do so. Our contentious probate team has significant experience in dealing with all manner of claims and threats against estates and we pride ourselves and resolving many such claims quickly, to allow you to complete your duties.

Our experience includes:

  • bringing claims on behalf of an estate;
  • defending claims against an estate;
  • applications to the court for a “Beddoe” order to indemnify the executors against a personal costs order;
  • claims to recover assets including gifts made during lifetime by reason of lack of capacity or undue influence;
  • applications for injunctions and freezing orders; and
  • applications to the court in respect of missing beneficiaries, often referred to as a “Benjamin” order

Important information: Time limits

A contentious probate claim must usually be brought within 12 years from the date a person becomes entitled to bring the contentious probate claim, usually shortly after the deceased’s death. However, in some cases these time limits can be considerably shorter, for instance if the issue involves medical negligence or some other form of civil dispute. If you feel you have found yourself in a contentious probate dispute then contact our team of specialist solicitors today. We offer clear advice on how best to proceed with a contentious probate claim. 

Executor cited to accept or refuse probate

Roman Kubiak successfully represented a beneficiary of an estate in which the named executor in the will could not be traced and had previously been uncooperative.  As such, we issued a citation to the executor to accept or refuse probate failing which we asked the Probate Registry to grant probate to our client.

In the event, the executor never replied to the citation and probate was ultimately granted to our client who could administer the estate in accordance with the deceased's wishes.

Questions over interpretation of will where adopted children involved

Hugh James acted for a professional executor in relation to settlement deed executed in 1953. The deed stipulated that the fund should be “held for such children” of the settlor and if that clause should fail, for the children of the next door neighbour. The settlor adopted two children in 1958 and 1960.

The question was whether the adopted children stood to benefit or if, alternatively, the son of neighbour should benefit?  There was no settled law on whether the Human Rights Act 1998 applied retrospectively and, therefore, if it altered the operation of s.5 of Adoption of Children Act 1926 which specifically said that adoption did not confer inheritance rights for adopted children.

Quotes

Roman Kubiak heads the firm's contested wills, trusts and estates department, advising individuals, banks and trust companies. "He is very knowledgeable and dynamic, he has bags of energy and enthusiasm," says an interviewee. One lawyer says he is "very knowledgeable, refreshing to deal with, and very client-focused".

Chambers and Partners UK

Quotes

Associate Vlad Macdonald-Munteanu is a ‘real rising star’ whose ‘knowledge of the law, client-handling skills and no-nonsense approach are a real asset’.

The Legal 500

Quotes

Hugh James is ‘head and shoulders above the rest’ for contentious probate.

The Legal 500

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