Contentious probate, estate disputes and actions to remove executors

Estate disputes and contentious probate issues can be stressful and may seem complicated.  Whether you’re an executor or a beneficiary, our experienced team of contentious probate solicitors can help guide you every step of the way.

Our contentious probate experience includes:

  • actions to remove executors;
  • applications to court for directions regarding the administration of an estate;
  • applications for delivery up of assets held by executors/beneficiaries;
  • citations to accept or refuse probate;
  • subpoenas to produce wills and testamentary documents;
  • applications to issue and warn off caveats;
  • applications for an inventory and account; and
  • bringing or defending claims by estates.

We know that legal costs can be a concern which is why we offer free, no-obligation consultations and flexible pricing options, tailored to your needs. 

Actions to remove executors

Contentious probate issues can arise between co-executors or administrators (collectively known as “personal representatives”) or between beneficiaries and executors at any stage of an estate administration or probate. This can involve disputes over the value of assets, the suitability of executors, probate fees and any other concerns over an executor’s actions. Our contentious probate lawyers have significant experience in dealing with all manner of executor disputes including replacing or removing executors.

Disputes between beneficiaries

In the aftermath of a loved one’s death it’s not uncommon for contentious probate issues to arise between beneficiaries. Our contentious probate solicitors have significant experience and a proven track record of delivering timely and cost-effective results in a pragmatic and sensitive manner.

Claims by or against the estate

As an executor, you stand in the shoes of a deceased person. This means that any claims relating to the deceased can be brought by or against you.  That carries with it certain risks and duties; for instance, it you might need to consider bringing a claim if it’s in the best interests of the estate and its beneficiaries to do so. Similarly, you might have to defend any claims brought against the deceased.

Our contentious probate team has significant experience in dealing with all manner of claims and threats against estates and are there with you every step of the way.

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

Hugh James succeeds in applications to remove executors

 

We have successfully removed numerous executors who have been unwilling, unable or unfit to act often either replacing them with our own firm, our clients or an independent party.

Our experience in this field means we’ve been able to deal with this issues, quickly, cost-effectively and with the minimum of stress

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 following which probate was ultimately granted to our client who could administer the estate in accordance with the deceased’s wishes.

Questions over interpretation of wills

 

We regularly help clients interpret wills and trusts.

We have advised professional executors in relation to the interpretation of the term “children” in historic wills and whether that term included adopted children.

We have also advised about the true construction of a clause in a will which left a contingent gift to a charity and whether that clause was valid.

Similarly we are often called on by our clients to interpret the meaning of wills prepared by other firms.

Defending an application to remove an executor

 

We acted for the executor of his father’s will faced with a claim by beneficiaries:

  1. for a full inventory and account of our client’s dealings with the estate;
  2. to set aside the client’s purchase of a property purportedly in breach of the self- dealing rule (to find out more see our self-dealing blog); and
  3. to remove our client as an executor.

The circumstances called for immediate action and we were able to act quickly to ensure that our client was not removed and to protect his position.

Your questions answered

Do you offer free consultations?

 

Yes. We offer a free 20 minute telephone consultation.

Do you offer “no win, no fee” agreements?

 

In many cases we’re able to offer a range of flexible pricing options including “no win, no fee” agreements, fixed fees and deferred payment arrangements depending on each case.

Some cases may also be suitable for “After the Event” insurance funding which provides cover for the cost of disbursements such as court and expert fees as well as protecting you from any potential adverse costs order.

How quickly can you resolve my case?

 

Each case is unique and so how quickly your case might be resolved depends on the particular circumstances. However, with one of the largest contentious probate teams in the UK with over 50 years’ experience in contentious probate, and with recognised leaders in the field, you can rest assured that your case is in good hands and that we’ll work with you to resolve your claim as quickly as possible.

What is contentious probate?

 

Contentious probate is any dispute relating to the administration of a deceased person’s estate (probate).  Whether you are involved in a dispute over the value of estate assets, the interpretation of a will or will dispute, an executor dealing with feuding beneficiaries or need to know how to remove an executor, we can help.

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

Are there any time limits for a contentious probate claim?

 

Time limits differ depending on the specific type of claim.  Generally, probate claims must usually be brought within 12 years from the date a person becomes entitled to a share of the estate. However, in some cases these time limits can be considerably shorter so the key is to act quickly.

If you’re facing a potential estate dispute then contact our team of contentious probate solicitors today.

How can I remove an executor?

 

How to remove an executor generally depends on whether the application is being made before or after the grant of probate or letters of administration have been granted.

Assuming you can’t remove an executor by agreement (in our experience many executors will agree to be removed without the need to go to court), generally speaking before a grant of probate or letters of administration have been granted the most common way to remove an executor is by an application to the probate registry under section116 Senior Courts Act 1981.

After the grant of probate or letters of administration have been obtained, an application to the High Court is usually necessary to remove an executor, under section 50 Administration of Justice Act 1985.

Our team of contentious probate solicitors have significant experience in removing executors. 

For more information , please read our blog post 'How to remove an executor'

What are the grounds for removing an executor?

 

There are numerous grounds to remove an executor.  The following can give automatic grounds to remove an executor:

  • death;
  • where they have remained outside of the UK for more than 12 months; or
  • where, whether through some disability or otherwise, they are unable to act.

Otherwise, the grounds to remove an executor can include the following:

  • refusal to act;
  • where they are unfit to act, for example favouring one beneficiary over another, having previously been convicted of fraud, having acted in breach of their duties or contrary to the terms of the will, having profited from their role (see our blog on self-dealing for more information) or otherwise acted in a way which is contrary to the best interests of the estate and its beneficiaries;
  • unanimous agreement between all relevant parties;
  • where the executor(s) and beneficiaries simply do not get on; or
  • any other reason which calls into question the executor’s suitability.

Our team of contentious probate solicitors have significant experience in removing executors. Read our blog 'How to remove an executor' to find out more.

What information am I entitled to receive about an estate?

 

Beneficiaries are generally entitled to request and be provided with estate accounts or accounts showing their entitlement and interest.  In many cases a beneficiary should also be provided with a copy of the will.

If you have an executor refusing to provide estate accounts then you may be able to make an application to court for an “inventory and account” requiring the executor to provide an itemised list of all assets in the estate, as well as an account of their dealings with those assets and their actions.

I am an executor faced with a potential claim. Can you help?

 

Yes.  With over 50 years’ experience in advising professional and lay executors we are well placed to help you navigate the minefield of a contentious probate claim.

More often than not, we can resolve potential claims without the need to go to court.  However, if court proceedings are necessary then our primary focus is always to protect you, our client, from any adverse costs order and to provide you with frank, no-nonsense advice.

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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