Will Disputes and Contentious Probate: The Impact of COVID-19

Will Disputes and Contentious Probate: The Impact of COVID-19

Contentious probate is any dispute relating to the administration of a deceased person's estate involving Wills, Trusts, Probate or Powers of Attorney including arguments between executors, trustees, attorneys or beneficiaries. For example, disputes could arise out of concerns over the validity of a Will or where loved ones feel they have not been sufficiently provided for. The amount of contested probate cases rose significantly in 2019 and this increase is likely to continue following the rise in demand for Wills throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Lockdown Wills – are they valid?

Given the increase in demand and urgency of Wills during lockdown, many people may have completed DIY Wills or had their Will witnessed over Zoom (or similar). Whilst such practices do not necessarily mean that a Will is invalid, many testators may not have been able to seek the necessary advice or had a capacity assessment before signing their Will and therefore the strict requirements of making a Will may not have been met. This is likely to lead to an increase in the number of Will disputes over the coming years.

Furthermore, the economic impact of COVID-19 may mean that family members who have been excluded as a beneficiary under a Will may be more likely to apply for financial provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975.

How can we help you?

We understand that Will disputes can be emotionally difficult for the parties involved. We will be able to guide you sensitively through the process whether you want to contest a Will, defend a contested Will, remove an executor or make a claim under the Inheritance Act for financial provision. Whilst going to Court is sometimes unavoidable, we will always endeavour to help you to reach a resolution as quickly and cost effectively as possible.

What should I do?

If you have a potential claim against an estate or are involved in a Will dispute, it is important that you seek legal advice as soon as possible. Depending on the nature of your claim, the time limit to bring your claim could be only 6 months from the issue of the Grant of Probate or Grant of Letters of Administration. Whether you are making a claim or defending one, we can offer specialist advice to help manage the dispute from the outset.

If you have an enquiry regarding a Will dispute and would like to discuss your individual circumstances in further detail, contact us today on 01603 693500 or email us using the 'Make an enquiry' form. Appointments available at our Norwich, North Walsham and Sheringham offices.