Inheritance disputes and contentious probate

Inheritance disputes often put significant strain on the parties involved no matter what the circumstances may be. Whether the dispute concerns the validity of a will, actions against Trustees, questionable lifetime gifts or any other matter relating to contentious wills and probate, the team at Smith Partnership offer the practical experience you need to ensure the estate is dealt with in a just and effective manner.

If you’re in need of legal expertise with regards to contentious probate, contact our team today.

What Is Contentious Probate?

Contentious probate refers to disputes that arise when administering the estate of a deceased loved one, and there can be many reasons why an estate’s beneficiaries might not see eye to eye. Some of the most common causes of contentious trusts and probate include:

  • Disputes regarding the interpretation or validity of a will
  • Trust disputes, for example regarding the interpretation or validity of a trust deed
  • Disagreement on the way in which the person’s estate is to be distributed or administered
  • Taking action through Court of Protection to protect the interests of someone who lacks the capacity to make a will
  • Claims made under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, for example to ensure the estate offers reasonable financial provision to a spouse, former spouse, child or dependant
  • Questionable lifetime gifts

Disputes in relation to trusts and probate are on the rise, and the above list is by no means exhaustive. Although inheritance disputes may well see emotions running high, finding an effective legal resolution is often in the best interests of each of the parties involved.

Challenging or Defending a Will

Wills serve an incredibly important purpose by setting out a person’s wishes regarding the way in which their estate is to be distributed after they have passed. In some cases, however, there may be valid reasons for the will to be challenged. These include situations where:

  • The will relates to a person who lacked the mental capacity to make an informed decision
  • The deceased was unduly influenced when making the will (for example through coercion)
  • The will is a result of forgery
  • A disputed statutory will is in place, for example, if there are doubts on whether it reflects the wishes of the deceased person
  • The contents of the will was not approved by the person it relates to
  • The will does not provide reasonable financial provision as set out in the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975

Defending or challenging a will may seem like a complicated and stressful process, but our dedicated contentious trusts and probate team offers the legal expertise needed to fight your corner.

Drawing on many years’ worth of experience in this area, Department Head Jak Ward is proud to be a member of the Association of Contentious Trusts and Probate Specialists as well as being recommended by the Legal 500.

Problems with Estate Administration

Apart from disputes relating to a person’s Will, you may also have concerns about the way an estate is being conducted or administered. Our expertise covers a wide range of issues regarding estate administration, including:

  • The removal or replacement of an Executor who has failed to correctly administer the estate
  • Defending claims against Executors
  • Disputes over deputyship
  • Actions against Trustees
  • Resolving disputes between Beneficiaries and Executors
  • Professional negligence claims

If you’ve been affected by any of the issues listed above, or if you’ve been faced with any other problems associated with contentious estates, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team today.

How Much Time Do I Have?

Time limits may apply depending on the circumstances of any probate claims you intend to make. If, for example, you wish to make a claim for reasonable financial provision in line with the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, you will generally be subject to a time limit of 6 months starting from when the Letters of Administration or Grant of Probate was issued.

Regardless of the specific circumstances surrounding the contentious probate dispute, it’s advisable to take action as soon as possible. For this reason, the solicitors at Smith Partnership offer an accessible and comprehensive service tailored to your specific needs.

How We Can Help

Contentious probate cases can often be legally complex, so it’s important to seek expert legal advice if you’re involved in a probate dispute. Shouldering the burden and stress that comes with litigation is our main priority, and our experts are able to guide you through every stage of the process.

As one of the East Midlands’ leading law firms, with offices in Derby, Stoke-on-Trent, Leicester, Swadlincote and Burton Upon Trent, we pride ourselves on taking a straight-talking and client-oriented approach to each case. We seek to establish your objectives at the outset, and with that, we focus on plotting a clear and strategic plan of action specific to your case. In doing so, our clients enjoy peace of mind that they have a trusted and experienced legal specialist on their side whenever they need it most.

Contact our team today

To find out how our expert team of solicitors can help you, contact us today on 0330 123 1229, send us an email via or complete our contact form.


All types of litigation can often be unpredictable, and it is difficult to accurately estimate how long some cases may take. Each type of case can bring about different timescales, and each case can be different anyway. Much will depend upon the responsiveness of opponent parties. Contentious probate cases are notoriously problematic when it comes to estimating timescales, because even after a judgment has been given or a case settled, there may be additional ancillary administrative work that prevents bring into effect any judgment or settlement. We will always try to estimate timescales as best we can and right from the outset.

You can stop a Grant of Probate or Grant of Letters of Administration from being issued. You do this by entering a Caveat at the Probate Registry. You will need to provide your name, address, and a summary of the reasons why a Grant should not be issued. You will need to pay a court fee of £20, and it will protect you for 6 months. Please note: if you prevent probate from being issue without good reason, you may leave yourself exposed to paying another party’s legal costs. It is recommended that you seek legal advice before applying to enter a caveat.

Probate’ is the practice of sorting out a deceased person’s affairs after they have died. This will involve locating any testamentary dispositions (i.e. a will); arranging a funeral; collecting in their assets and converting them into cash (where applicable); obtaining a Grant from the probate registry; settling or paying the deceased’s debts and liabilities; and, distributing the estate to the beneficiaries.

It is possible to challenge a will. The common ways that a person with a sufficient interest in a will or estate can challenge a will is on grounds of validity, construction and formality. We mainly encounter concerns over validity. The typical challenges that we deal with are wills created by a testator that lacks testamentary capacity; due to undue influence occasioned by a beneficiary; and, a testator that lacks knowledge and approval of the will. The credibility of the evidence that you have (or that we can gather on your behalf) will inform how best to bring your challenge.