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Unhappy Families - Probate Disputes

Image of Unhappy Families - Probate Disputes

The 2018 model of a “family” is very different from generations before.

Blended families are more common than not, with estranged adult children often living in different parts of the UK/world. People are living longer with complex and challenging medical conditions including Alzheimers and Dementia, which all makes for a very complicated family situation.

It is also the case that the parent’s estate is worth fighting over, with people finding it increasingly difficult to buy their own homes, aged parent’s properties or a share or the value can often be a very attractive proposition, to a disinherited beneficiary.

In the last few years, we have seen a dramatic increase in such probate disputes. We act on behalf of executors, beneficiaries and disinherited beneficiaries.

Probate Dispute Claims

Probate dispute claims include:

Alleging/defending a claim that the will is not valid because of:
•  Lack of capacity
•  Lack of knowledge and approval
•  Undue influence and fraud
•  Bringing/defending Inheritance Act (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act Claim, including those brought by able bodied adult children.

Attorneys

We frequently advise in connection with the role of Attorneys, where an Attorney anticipates there will be a subsequent family dispute and are keen to ensure that they have all the necessary safe guards in place to protect themselves for future criticism/ and potential claims, whilst managing their loved ones affairs.

At the other end of the scale, we frequently advise estates/beneficiaries where there has been, an alleged or actual abuse of an Attorney’s role, which sadly does occur quite frequently and where for example they use the parent’s property/assets as their own, which can have quite serious ramifications if for instance the parent’s funds are no longer available to pay for the care which they subsequently need.

Professional Negligence Claims

Again, this is a major growth area of work for us in the litigation unit, this is due we believe to a number of factors including the pushing down of fees payable for will preparation for instance, which means that some clients will go with the cheapest quote for legal services which may mean that they do not get the legal service which their circumstances require.

As a population we are becoming much more litigious and claims are frequently bought by disappointed beneficiaries and/or from the estate.

Claims are frequently made for the consequences of the Solicitor’s:

• Failure to check capacity
• Failure to check instructions
• Failure to give effect to the client’s instruction
• Failure to check formalities/delay in preparing the will
• Failure to chase for medical report on capacity
• Failure to keep a full attendance note.

At Archers, the wills probate teams and litigation units do work very closely together, so that we can share our combined knowledge and experience in this complex area of law. Together with my colleague, Wendy John the head of wills probate unit, we presented a breakfast briefing to a number of professional contacts. “Testamentary freedom in the 2018 landscape challenges and disputes pre and post death”. I attach the briefing, should you be interested in viewing it.  Download here.