Contesting wills: specialist solicitors: contested inheritance: probate claims:

  • lack of testamentary capacity
  • undue influence
  • claims relating to a “missing” will
  • proprietary estoppel
  • constructive trusts
  • against executors/administrators for breach of trust
  • against solicitors arising from preparation & execution of wills & the administration of estates

Representing UK & international clients in courts of England & Wales

“What the team is known for: Boutique firm specialising in contentious probate and trusts work. Well equipped to handle complex and highly sensitive situations, including 1975 Inheritance Act claims, claims of abuse of position of executors, and claims against the validity of wills. Often represents high net worth families. (from Chambers UK rankings 2015/16) 

Strengths (Quotes mainly from clients)

“I am extremely pleased with the service provided and the outcome. I will definitely recommend Humphreys & Co. to anyone who requires legal advice.”

Notable practitioners

Head of department Philip Siddons is known for his contentious probate practice. He spearheads the private client practice.”

Full member of ACTAPS (the Association of Contentious Trust & Probate Specialists). The ACTAPS Code promotes the resolution of trust & probate disputes without the need for bitter & very expensive Court proceedings.

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Philip Siddons did a wonderful job dealing with our contentious probate case.

Philip Siddons did a wonderful job dealing with our contentious probate case. He was decisive and definite with his advice. He was extremely knowledgeable in this area of law and was efficient in answering any questions (of which there were a lot). He made me feel that our case was a priority even though I understand he would have been working on other cases and I’m sure the other clients would have wanted to feel like a priority too.

Philip would always provide up-front costs for work which was to be undertaken and would advise in relation to all the risks of litigation. His letters were well written and firm but extremely professional.

I have dealt with other solicitors over the years that attempt to do too many areas of law and are therefore not experts in a particular area. I felt that Philip was an expert in his field and therefore we saved money ... I cannot speak highly enough of the advice he provided or the service that I received. I would certainly recommend both Philip and the firm to anyone who has an issue in this area of law.

I would not have achieved the result that we did without the help of Humphreys & Co. They provided accurate definite advice which allowed us to provide them with the correct instructions as to how to proceed. ...  I think this is a stark contrast to other firms who view billing and costs as a priority. (Monmouthshire)

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Recent cases at Humphreys & Co. include:

  • Acting for claimants, executors and beneficiaries in claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975)
  • Securing a settlement for a nephew of the deceased aunt who had promised her house to him but had instead left it to her partner
  • On behalf of the main beneficiary, defending claims made against a will as a result of a relative refusing to testify as to the validity of a will
  • Securing a declaration by consent of an earlier “shredded” will
  • Securing revocation of a grant of probate through an order by consent that a later will was invalid as it had not been properly executed and that an earlier will should be admitted to probate
  • Securing a financial settlement for a disappointed beneficiary through formal mediation based on concerns relating to a lack of testamentary capacity and the presence of a valid Inheritance Act claim
  • Obtaining a declaration for the members of the deceased’s wife’s family following contested court proceedings that the deceased’s estate should be administered according to the trusts of a previous “mutual” will made in the same terms as those of his late wife and not according to a later will giving his estate to the deceased’s family.

Member of the Association of Contentious Trusts & Probate Specialists

Contesting a will: the available options

There are 3 main grounds upon which wills are commonly contested, as set out below. Bear in mind that strict time limits apply to contested wills, so it’s prudent to act quickly. In order to preserve all available remedies, it’s best to contact specialist solicitors without delay.

Even if a will cannot be challenged on the grounds below, it may nevertheless be possible to change its terms with a deed of variation. You will need to first obtain the agreement of all parties to be affected by the change.

(1) Invalid: it does not comply with the applicable law

The court may set aside a will for formal invalidity if it was not properly signed or witnessed.

The court may also set aside a will if the Deceased’s condition meant that they were not competent to make a will and/or they may not have understood or approved its terms. This is particularly so if the will was made shortly before death.

A will must reflect the free informed wishes of the Deceased. If someone bullied or tricked them into making a will (or changing their existing will) in terms that did not reflect their true wishes, the court may set it aside.

(2) Ineffective: it does not reflect the deceased’s intentions

The court may be prepared to enforce, in whole or in part, prior agreements and promises made by the Deceased as to how they would leave their property.

The court will be prepared to correct an obvious mistake in some cases.

(3) Inheritance Act: it does not provide for everyone it should

If a valid will (or the intestacy rules which apply where no will has been found) doesn’t make reasonable financial provision for you, you may be able to make an Inheritance Act claim.

Such a claim can be made by, among others, former spouses and civil partners, some partners, children (including adult children) and dependants. Time limits apply.

Contesting a Will: Ten Do’s and Don’ts

by Philip Siddons, Head of Humphreys & Co.’s Contentious Probate Practice 

A surprising number of the people who come to me for advice about contesting a will have previously taken and acted on wrong advice from friends and people who meant well but who did not know what they were talking about.

In any will challenge, the Court will want detailed information about matters including:

  • the Deceased’s financial affairs and physical and mental health at the time when the challenged will was prepared and executed;
  • what the Deceased said to anyone else about the challenged will, before or after it was prepared and executed; and,
  • the Deceased’s relations with their family and others around the time when the challenged will was prepared and executed.

The problem is that you as the potential Claimant may not know much about any of those aspects, particularly if as you suspect the main beneficiary under the challenged will took steps to isolate the Deceased from you. In addition, the executors and beneficiaries may not want to help you get that information.

The solution to that problem is that you can require the executors and beneficiaries to enable you to inspect the will file of the challenged will and have access to the Deceased’s medical records. It is certainly not impossible to challenge a will. From our experience, a good proportion of challenges succeed either at trial or by agreement before trial, and sometimes without the need to issue proceedings.

No one can promise you a will challenge without tears, but observing the following dos and don’ts will help you through it.

[For full article go to 10 x Do’s & Don’ts in Contesting a Will ]

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We offer an initial analysis of your potential claim (with options & recommendations) for a fixed charge

I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank yourself and your colleagues at Humphreys & Co. for all the work, help and kindness you have shown for J over what have been 3 difficult and traumatic years, and also Mr. C who represented at the mediation last November, for whom J has very high regards.” (Staffordshire)

Some key law on contested wills

It is essential that a testator  shall understand the nature of the act and its effects; shall understand the extent of the property of which he is disposing; and shall be able to comprehend and appreciate the claims to which he ought to give effect, and; with a view to the latter object,  that no disorder of mind shall poison his affections, pervert his sense of right or pervert the exercise of his natural faculties;   that no insane delusions shall influence his mind in disposing of his property and bring about a disposal of it which if his mind had been sound, would not have been made.Banks v Goodfellow [1870]

If a will is duly executed and the testator has testamentary capacity……… the court will presume in the absence of other evidence that the testator knew and approved the contents of the will, unless the circumstances are such as to excite the suspicion of the court. If  such  circumstances exist, the burden lies on those seeking to prove the will to establish  affirmatively,  on  the balance of probabilities, that the testator knew and approved the contents  of the will” Fuller v Strum [2002].

In these circumstances, the task of the court is to assess the evidence and reach its conclusion, on the balance of probabilities.

Where a will has been duly executed by a deceased of testamentary capacity who knew that he was making a will and is shown to have known and approved of a specific part of the will, the court must consider how real is the possibility that the deceased did not know and approve of the remainder of the will and that requires a careful examination of all the circumstances including the directions and dispositions of the will.

The question is whether the court is satisfied that the contents do truly represent the testator’s testamentary intentions.” Fuller v Strum [2002]

administration of estates: Abstract word cloud for Testamentary disposition with related tags and terms Stock Photo

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