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Part 1: Contentious Probate Explained - for Executors

Part 1: Contentious Probate Explained - for Executors

Solicitor, Ruth Jewell, outlines the main points of interest for Executors and Trustees of Estates when a contentious probate claim has been made against an Estate

It is a difficult time when a loved one dies and further pressure is place on those who are responsible for dealing with the estate. They have the added burden of ensuring that the estate is distributed in accordance with their loved one’s wishes. In many cases it will be a husband, a wife, a child or a sibling who is given this task at the worst possible time, when they simply wish to morn their loved one.

If this situation is not stressful enough, the chance of financially benefitting from the death often arises. The laws of England and Wales allow certain categories of people to bring a claim against the estate of the deceased. A probate claim, or contentious probate claim as it is known, is a claim from a person who does not believe they have received the inheritance they are due, or a dispute with how the Executors have managed the estate.

What is contentious probate?

Contentious Probate is a dispute relating to the administration of the estate of a deceased person. It can be a dispute about the interpretation of a Will, the value of assets, the apportionment to beneficiaries, or the performance of the Executors in their duties.

Whilst a beneficiary might be entitled to pursue a contentious probate claim it is important to understand that the court considers a number of factors when deciding whether they are entitled to a greater share in the estate. These factors include:

  1. Whether the inheritance given in the Will makes reasonable provision

  2. The relationship between the person who has died and the person making the claim

  3. The needs of the other beneficiaries

  4. The deceased’s wishes.


For Executors, it is important to seek further advice as soon as it becomes apparent that a claim may be made so that you are aware of your responsibilities and the steps which might need to be taken to ensure that you are acting as you should.


Ruth shares some recent examples of claims:  


“I had to defend a recent claim from a client who had nursed their sick father for over 20 years and paid his care home bills until his death, only to find the estranged sister in America claiming the majority of the father’s estate in inheritance saying it was promised to her, even though she had not been in contact with her father for over 20 years. In this case, the Executor knew the circumstances and sought advice about how best to defend against the claim.”
“In another matter, an elderly woman in a Leicester nursing home was found to have left her entire Estate to her care home nurse just before her death, overturning a long-standing Will dividing her Estate equally between her children. The children in this instance brought a claim against the Executors of the Estate and we advised them accordingly.”


Unfortunately the thought of inheritance can bring out an unattractive slavering quality in some people and the probate courts can help by:


  • protecting Executors from being bullied into overturning decisions about the Estate that are actually legitimate

  • protecting beneficiaries who have an honest claim to make about an inheritance due to them

  • identifying Executors who are not performing their duties adequately or legitimately.


For further advice, please contact Ruth Jewell, Dispute Resolution specialist and Solicitor

Ruth Jewell
Ruth Jewell, Dispute Resolution specialist and Solicitor at Lawson-West 


Useful links:

Part 2: Contetious Probate Explained - for Beneficiaries

Law Society - Probate Changes

Law Gazette - Contentious Probate

The National Will Register - Contentious Probate - The Most Successful Way to Contest a Will 


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