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Estate disputes – expert legal advice

Legal advice for an estate dispute

Lodders can assist you with an estate dispute if you are a beneficiary and are worried about the way in which the executors or trustees are handling the administration of the estate. Equally, if you are an executor or trustee of an estate and are facing a challenge by a disappointed beneficiary, we can help.

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Disputes during the administration of an estate

Disputes during the administration of the estate can range from a beneficiary being denied access to information through to executors falling out with each other. We can advise on all types of disputes which arise in this area. Below are some examples of the sorts of problems that are routinely encountered during the administration of an estate.

Requests for information and copy of the will

If you are a beneficiary and you have not been provided with any information about your loved one’s estate or how it is being administered, we can help. Although the executors are not obliged to provide you with a copy of the will or any information relating to the estate administration, it is usually customary to keep beneficiaries informed.

If, despite reasonable requests, no information is forthcoming, there are several steps that we can take depending on what information you are seeking to obtain. If you would like a copy of the will, we can make a very specific request for it from the person or firm who prepared it. This is known as a Larke v Nugus request. Usually, such requests are only made where you have a genuine concern over the validity and preparation of the will. Alternatively, if a Grant of Probate has already been issued, we can download a copy of it from the government website for a nominal cost of £1.50. If a will was made, a copy of it can be downloaded at the same time.

If you are looking to obtain information about what the estate is worth, we can make an application to court for an inventory and account to be produced by the executors, should the information not be forthcoming.

Disputes between beneficiaries and executors

The administration of an estate can be a time where emotions are running high. You might be faced with a situation where the executor is not taking any steps at all to progress the administration of the estate. Alternatively, you may have discovered that someone who is not an executor has taken steps which they should not have done.

This is a complex area. If, despite reasonable requests, an executor is refusing to take steps, such as applying for a Grant of Probate or is failing to administer the estate once the Grant of Probate has been issued, we can assist in bringing an application before the court compelling them to take the necessary steps to give proper effect to your loved one’s wishes under their will.

Alternatively, if someone who is not a named executor under a will has taken steps to deal with the deceased assets nonetheless or has otherwise held themselves out to be an executor of the estate (for example by paying off a debt or collecting in an asset and handing it over to a beneficiary) they will be considered to have intermeddled in the estate. This means that they will formally have to take on the role of executor (alongside the named executors under the will) by applying for a Grant of Probate and will ultimately be accountable to the estate for ensuring that the administration is carried out properly. A person who has intermeddled in the estate cannot renounce from the role of executor.

Executors not acting in the best interests of the estate

If you have more serious concerns about how the executors are handling the administration of the estate and you believe that they are not acting in the best interests of the beneficiaries, you may be considering whether it is possible to have them removed from their role entirely. It is certainly possible to bring an application of this sort before the court and request that a substitute executor is appointed in their place instead. However, it is important to remember that a court will not make such an order lightly.

The court will need to be satisfied that the executor has been (a) disqualified (ie: because they have been convicted of a crime and have been sent to prison), (b) is incapable of performing their role due to a mental or physical disability or (c) is unsuitable for the role. They may be considered unsuitable if, for example, they have been stealing from the estate, mismanaging or wasting estate funds. We can help to assess whether you might have strong grounds for bringing such an application. However, a court would be unlikely to remove an executor because they have been a bit slow in making progress or simple because they do not get on with the beneficiaries (unless of course it is affecting the administration of the estate).

Disputes between executors

The task of administering an estate can be a lengthy and complex process. All executors will need to work together and will need to make important decisions from time to time. For instance, when selling a property that belonged to the deceased, they will need to agree on the sale price. If the market is slow or if a beneficiary expresses an interest in the property, then all executors will need to agree on a way forward to ensure that they act in the best interests of all the beneficiaries.

Having to make such important decisions can often lead to a difference of opinion and so communication is key. If the executors cannot agree, they may decide to seek independent legal advice to see if the situation can be resolved. If it cannot, an application to court would have to be made either for directions on how to proceed or for the removal of one or more of the executors. If you are facing an issue with a co-executor and need assistance, we can help.

Need more advice on your estate dispute?

Get in touch with our disputed wills and estate specialists for an initial conversation to see how we can help. You’ll receive a free, no-obligation meeting where we discuss the estate dispute matter with you.

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Our expertise provides much-needed clarity for clients, supported by our highly personal and empathetic approach to client care. Speak to our expert Anjali Narshi for advice regarding disputed wills & estates today.


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Questions answered

Not sure that this is the service for you? Take a look at some of our frequently asked questions for more information.

A will is a legal document that expresses what happens to an individuals finances, property and assets after their death.

A will may also include other decisions around important responsibilities, such as childcare.

Failing to prepare a will can mean that officials then need to decide what happens to the deceased's finances, property, assets, children, etc.

Wills can be challenged as invalid on a variety of grounds, including lack of testamentary capacity, undue influence, improper execution, and fraud.

We can help if our client feels that inadequate financial provision has been made, or if they wish to challenge the statutory provisions that apply when no valid will exists. If a will is wrong, or an estate isn’t administered in the right way, we can sue for professional negligence.

A testator is a name/term for someone who has created a will.

With top tier rankings for private client legal advice from both Chambers and the Legal 500, we have a national reputation for excellence. Lodders has a dedicated team across three offices in Stratford upon Avon, Henley in Arden, and Cheltenham, and our services include all aspects of wills, trusts, estates and tax planning, and care and capacity matters.

Our solicitors, who specialise in wills, understand all the concerns and challenges involved in managing wills. No matter how simple or complex, we can provide you with a complete drafting service for wills, trusts and supporting documentation. Drawing on our experience of preparing hundreds of wills each year, we offer clear and uncomplicated advice to help you provide for the welfare of your family.

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