By Sarah MacLeod  Solicitor, Wills, Trusts & Estates

Recently there has been a significant increase in the number of contentious probate matters.

You may be aware of several high-profile cases involving celebrities’ estates which have featured in the media. 


Contentious probate deals with disputes relating to the terms of a person’s Will or the administration of their estate. This can be a consequence of a beneficiary claiming that they did not receive what they had hoped for either under the terms of a person’s Will or the rules of intestacy. Furthermore, a beneficiary could claim that a person’s Will is invalid because they were not of sound mind or were influenced by a third party. 

Under certain circumstances, it is possible for a disappointed beneficiary (who is a family member or dependent of the deceased) to make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. If the claim is successful, the court has the power to alter how a person’s estate is distributed. This type of claim can be used if a person has received nothing or less than expected under a Will or intestacy.

This growth in disputes appears to have been triggered by a number of different factors: Media coverage of high profile cases has made people more aware of what is possible; a significant increase in property prices has made a greater number of estates more valuable; as a result of a high divorce rate, there are more people now with second families; people are more willing to enter into litigation if they believe that the cost would be covered by the estate; and due to the UK’s ageing population, there is more awareness of age-related illnesses such as dementia.

There is also an assumption that the rules of intestacy will take care of a person’s loved ones if they die without leaving a Will. However, this does not always ensure that the deceased’s wishes are respected and can create disagreements and heartache at a difficult time for those left behind.

Often, making a Will is on a person’s to-do list but it gets put off due to the competing demands of everyday life. It is particularly important if you own a property or business, have a family or are co-habiting.

Having a professionally drafted Will in place can ensure that your wishes are met and can help to avoid family disputes after you have gone. Conversely, putting a home-made Will in place can have disastrous results – there have been instances of parents accidentally disinheriting their own children. A Will is a complex legal document and it is easy for a DIY Will to be executed incorrectly, worded inappropriately or poorly drafted which will render it partially or fully invalid.

Seeking the advice of a solicitor can minimise the risk of any claims against your estate after you die. A professionally drafted Will carries with it a higher level of proof that the testator (the person making the Will)had the requisite testamentary capacity (the legal and mental ability)when putting the Will in place. A solicitor would also advise you how to protect against future claims against your estate.

Ultimately, seeking advice from a private client solicitor can mean the difference between your wishes being met and unwanted consequences arising after your death – by which time it is too late. Don’t leave such an important issue to chance.

For more information about writing or updating your Will, please contact a member of the Wills, Trusts & Estates Department at Cullimore Dutton Solicitors on 01244 356 789 or email


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