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Inheritance Disputes

The death of a relative can be a sad and overwhelming time. Coping with grief and sorting out the deceased’s estate are hard enough without the added pressure of a family dispute.

Broken promises, unfulfilled expectations and confusion over the deceased’s final wishes – these are all reasons why a disagreement over inheritance may arise. For example, perhaps:

  • You have been left out of someone’s Will;
  • You received nothing because a loved one died without leaving a Will;
  • You are happy with the Will but another relative has raised a dispute; or
  • You are concerned about whether someone’s Will is valid or reflects the deceased’s true wishes.

At Hains & Lewis Solicitors, our contested probate specialists can provide all the help you need to challenge or defend a deceased person’s estate.

We understand the difficult emotions involved in these situations. Whether you and the deceased were close, or you had a complicated relationship, it is common to experience a whole range of feelings, from sadness to frustration to anger.

Whatever you are feeling, we are here to provide a tailored level of advice and support. We want to help you find the best possible solution, no matter how complicated the circumstances.

We have experience handling a wide range of contentious probate matters, including:

  • Cases involving high value estates amounting to millions of pounds of inheritance
  • Disputes involving farms, farmland, other rural property and agricultural businesses.

To arrange an initial consultation with our approachable expert inheritance dispute solicitors in Southwest Wales, please contact your local Hains & Lewis office in CarmarthenHaverfordwest or Narberth.

How our inheritance dispute solicitors can help you

Challenging a Will

A person’s final wishes are highly respected in England and Wales. In most cases, so long as the person (known as a testator) leaves a valid Will, it is a legal requirement that their wishes are followed.

However, sometimes a person’s Will is not valid or it can otherwise be challenged because it is wrong, for example, because:

  • It was not signed or witnessed properly.
  • The person or organisation that wrote the Will for the testator made a mistake and did not record the testator’s wishes properly.
  • The Will writer made an error, such as writing down someone’s inheritance wrong.
  • The Will is written in a confusing, unclear way that makes it difficult to work out the testator’s wishes.
  • The testator was forced, influenced or coerced into making the Will (undue influence).
  • The testator was not of ‘sound mind’ when they made the Will. For example, they had an illness such as dementia that affected their understanding of what making a Will means.
  • There was fraud or forgery involved.

Successfully challenging a Will can have several different outcomes, including:

  • The Will may be completely set aside and the estate (the deceased person’s money and property) may be distributed according to the Rules of Intestacy instead.
  • Parts of the Will may be set aside. For example, if someone placed undue influence on the testator to be added to the Will as an heir alongside the testator’s children, the gifts to the influencer could be set aside, allowing the children to inherit everything.
  • The Will may be changed to better reflect the deceased’s true wishes.
  • The Will may be interpreted to make confusing clauses clearer.

Taking steps to challenge someone’s Will can be daunting. It is normal to feel insecure about whether you are doing the right thing by challenging someone’s final wishes. However, by challenging the Will, you may actually be ensuring that the testator’s true wishes are respected.

We can provide a listening ear as well as practical legal advice to help you find the right way forward. We are experienced at negotiating with other involved parties to try to find a positive solution to the issues.

Our team are also able to make court applications to challenge a Will, including temporarily stopping probate from going ahead if necessary.

Claiming inheritance after being left out of a Will (Inheritance Act claims)

Being left out of your relative’s Will, or missing out because your relative did not leave a Will, can come as a shock.

If you are a close family member or dependant of the deceased, it may be possible to make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 for ‘reasonable financial provision’. This means you could receive an inheritance even if you were left out of a Will.

Inheritance Act claims are very complex, so it is essential to have the best legal representation on your side.

Our inheritance claim solicitors can provide clear information about exactly what making a claim involves, including whether you may be able to make a successful claim.

We can also help you make your claim, engaging with negotiations with other parties and representing you during court proceedings if necessary.

Intestacy disputes

It is common for people to die without leaving a Will, but unfortunately it can cause a lot of issues for the people they leave behind.

Dying without a Will (called dying intestate) means that the deceased person’s money and property will be distributed according to the Rules of Intestacy. Under the Rules, only certain people are allowed to inherit, such as married spouses, civil partners and children (but not unmarried partners or step children).

It also means that the deceased will not have appointed anyone to put their final affairs in order. The Rules of Intestacy also allow certain people to step forward to take on this role (again, unmarried partners and step children are not allowed).

The impact of intestacy can often be unexpected and it is common for disputes to arise between family members. For example, a dispute might arise where:

  • The deceased had lived with their unmarried partner for many years, but after she dies their estate is inherited by the estranged spouse.
  • The deceased had several biological children, adopted children and step children that he raised with equal love and support for many years. However, after he dies, only the biological children and adopted children are allowed to inherit and they refuse to share their inheritance with the step children.
  • The deceased made a Will. Then they got married but died before they could make a new Will. In England and Wales, getting married invalidates any previous Will, meaning the deceased is treated as if they died intestate.

If you are involved in an intestacy dispute, we can help you work out what steps to take and whether it is possible to make a legal claim. We also help people defend legal claims involving intestate estates. With our assistance, you have the best possible chance of being able to sort out a positive outcome for the whole family.

Farming inheritance disputes

It is important for any person to make a Will, however, it is especially important within farming families.

Farms, agricultural businesses and rural property tend to stay in the same family’s hands for many generations. Family members will often work closely with each other, and may even sacrifice other life opportunities to help the business succeed.

So, when the owner of the farm dies, it is common for disputes to arise between surviving family members, particularly in relation to inheritance.

Farming Will and inheritance disputes can arise for many reasons, such as:

  • Broken promises, e.g. if you worked on the family farm for many years for little to no wages on the understanding you would inherit it, only to be left out of the owner’s Will.
  • Intestacy.
  • Family disagreements that result in certain family members being disinherited.
  • Disputes over the probate and estate administration process, e.g. disputes over inheritance tax and its various reliefs and exemptions.

Our contentious probate solicitors have specialist experience handling farming inheritance disputes. We regularly represent clients from across Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and beyond, helping them find practical, workable solutions to a wide range of difficult and often emotionally-charged disputes.

Speak to our inheritance disputes solicitors in Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire

To arrange an initial consultation with our approachable expert inheritance dispute solicitors in Southwest Wales, please contact your local Hains & Lewis office in Carmarthen, Haverfordwest or Narberth.