When a person dies, even if they have left very clear instructions in their will as to how they want their estate to be passed on, those named as executors will usually have to apply for what is known as probate. Probate or grant of representation as it is also known is a legal instrument that allows those named as executors to distribute the property and assets of the deceased to beneficiaries of the will. But probate is not always a straight-forward matter. Sometimes there are beneficiaries named on the will who are not part of the immediate family setup, and where the executor may require a probate search service to locate them. Another bigger issue is if there is somebody who disputes the right to do so of someone applying for it.
What Is Disputed Probate?
If someone believes that the person or persons making application for probate is not entitled to do so, or they are concerned about the content of a will they can make an application themselves. This will be for something called a caveat which stops the process of probate from proceeding so that the matter can be addressed. More information regarding this can be found at gov.uk. The caveat will last for a period of 6 months. If a caveat is issued then there will be a dispute of probate which will need to be legally settled. This is the same as when there is a dispute about the validity of a will and the same procedure will apply.
When Will Disputed Probate Arise?
A dispute regarding the grant of probate can arise in several circumstances, but there does have to be a person or persons who disagree either with the application of those seeking probate or the contents of the will in question. It may be that someone wishes to make a claim to property that is not willed to them but that they claim the deceased promised to them. There may be concerns about the motives or capability of the person or persons seeking probate. For example a potential beneficiary may feel that they have misunderstood or corrupted the intentions of the deceased or harbour feelings that will interfere with the rightful distribution of the deceased’s estate.
There may also be concerns about the manner in which the will was made or the capability of the deceased to do so at the time it was made. This would be the case if the will was made by someone who was suffering illness or mental impairment that called into question their understanding of what they were expressing in their will.
The Legal Framework
The main legal instrument that allows for the contention of probate is the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act of 1975. If somebody wishes to make an application to stop the progression of probate they will have to satisfy the criteria to do so laid out in this Act.
What to do to contend Probate
There is advice available from organisations such as the Citizens Advice Bureau but it is always advisable to seek a consultation with solicitors who are experienced in dealing with such matters. The issues to be addressed can become quite complex and if a decision has to be made through the legal system it is far better to have legal representation backed by experience and a full understanding of the issues related to contentious probate. A search of specialist solicitors will yield suitable results.