Where there are arguments over a Will, there is a way…
Barrister John Robson, an expert on probate problems, sets out the reasons why consulting a barrister early on if you are faced with a tricky, sensitive and complex dispute over a family estate can save you time, money and anxiety.
It is normal for the effect of losing someone permanently to cause a traumatic reaction - bereavement is not easy! During the lifetime of a loved one, one ‘goes along’ with what is happening but the reality of someone’s lifetime actions often causes added grief upon death. Issues that may arise include the fact that a Will may not have been properly executed (signed) or that there may have been a signing of a Will under pressure (undue influence).
In my experience, particular hurt often arises where there has been a second relationship. There can be resentment by children of the first relationship. They might have interfered in a deceased’s Will and obtained the execution of a new one. The second partner might not have security of property following death. Claims under the Inheritance Act might arise but it might not be appreciated that such a claim has a 6-month window of opportunity from grant of probate. One then has to rectify the position applying the factors laid down by the Courts.
My approach in these situations is to listen, be sympathetic and to work hard for the client. Litigation (resort to the Courts) should be a last resort and I am always mindful of the need to be careful with expenditure on Court proceedings. The emotional drain (as well as financial) of Court proceedings is not to be underestimated.
I am also a great believer in exploring mediation as a way to resolve disputes involving contested probate. This means promoting a meeting (with the parties in separate rooms) with a mediator to facilitate an agreement so that problems can be resolved as soon as possible. This requires ‘give and take’ on both sides. I have participated in many mediations, and know they can work well. Early resolution to traumatic events means the clients can draw a line and can get on with their lives.