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Probate Dispute Solicitors Northern Ireland

Expert Probate Dispute Solicitors in Northern Ireland

Probate Disputes Solicitors in Belfast and Northern Ireland

Contentious probate involves conflicts and legal disputes concerning a deceased individual’s estate, and how that estate is administered.  

Common probate disputes that often occur include challenges to a Will or Trust, or where the role of an executor is challenged. Probate disputes may also arise where dependents of the deceased are not properly provided for and decide to raise a claim under the Inheritance Act. 

At SG Murphy, we understand that contentious probates are sensitive by nature. When you are grieving a loved one, this type of conflict can make an already traumatic situation all the more tense. 

Our solicitors can promise sensitive support, helping you to address the practical legal matters and resolve things as smoothly as possible. Our experts can assist across all matters related to contentious probate, such as: 

  • Contesting a Will
  • Trust related disputes 
  • Will executor disputes  
  • Inheritance Act Claims 

Have a question about probate disputes? Please read our probate FAQS or get in touch to speak to a member of the team. 

Speak to SG Murphy Probate Solicitors Belfast

We are here to help. Contact us now on 028 90 36 5595 

Our probate disputes solicitors expertise 

Contesting a Will in Ireland

If someone dies, their will is a legal document that outlines how their assets, property, and possessions will be distributed.

In Ireland, wills are governed by the Succession Act 1965, which outlines the rules and regulations for creating and contesting a will.

Types of Wills

There are two types of wills in Ireland: a formal will and an informal will. A formal will must be in writing, signed by the testator (the person making the will), and witnessed by two witnesses who are present at the same time. An informal will, also known as a nuncupative will, is an oral will made by the testator in their final illness. However, an informal will is only valid in certain circumstances and is subject to strict rules.

Requirements for a Valid Will

For a will to be valid in Ireland, it must meet certain requirements. The testator must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind, meaning they understand the nature and effect of the will. The will must be in writing, signed by the testator, and witnessed by two witnesses who are present at the same time. The witnesses must also sign the will in the presence of the testator.

If there are any concerns about the validity of a Will, and if the document does not accurately represent the deceased’s wishes, our solicitors can assist you to contest a Will.  

It is possible to challenge a Will where the document was incorrectly signed or witnessed, or if the deceased did not have mental capacity when creating the Will. A Will can also be disputed on the grounds that the deceased (the testator) did not have adequate knowledge regarding the Will contents, or if fraud has occurred.  

The document may also be contested if the testator was unduly influenced to adjust their Will, or include things that did not accurately represent their own wishes. 

Grounds for Contesting a Will in Ireland

If you believe that a will does not reflect the true intentions of the deceased, you may be able to contest it. However, it is important to note that contesting a will is a complex and often emotionally charged process. Before proceeding, you should seek legal advice to determine if you have a valid case.

Lack of Testamentary Capacity

One of the most common grounds for contesting a will is lack of testamentary capacity. This means that the person who made the will did not have the mental capacity to understand the nature and effect of their actions. For example, if the person was suffering from dementia or another mental illness at the time they made the will, it may be possible to contest it.

Undue Influence

Undue influence occurs when someone exerts pressure on the person making the will to change it in their favour. This could include coercion, manipulation, or threats. If you suspect that someone has used undue influence to influence the contents of a will, you may be able to contest it.

Fraud or Forgery

If you believe that a will has been fraudulently created or forged, you may be able to contest it. This could include situations where the signature on the will is not genuine or where the will has been altered without the knowledge or consent of the deceased.

Failure to Comply with Legal Requirements

There are certain legal requirements that must be met when creating a will. For example, the person making the will must sign it in the presence of witnesses, and the witnesses must also sign it. If these requirements are not met, it may be possible to contest the will.

In conclusion, there are several grounds for contesting a will in Ireland, including lack of testamentary capacity, undue influence, fraud or forgery, and failure to comply with legal requirements. However, contesting a will is a complex process, and it is important to seek legal advice before proceeding.

Complete Process To Contest A Will in Northern Ireland?

If you believe that you have a valid reason to contest a will in Ireland, you can do so by following the proper legal procedures. Here is what you need to know about the contesting process.

Also See: How Long Does Probate Take in Northern Ireland

Eligibility to Contest

Not everyone is eligible to contest a will in Ireland. Generally, only those who have a legal interest in the estate of the deceased person can do so. This includes:

  • Spouses or civil partners of the deceased
  • Children of the deceased
  • Former spouses or civil partners who have not remarried or entered into a new civil partnership
  • People who were financially dependent on the deceased

If you are unsure whether you are eligible to contest a will, it is best to seek legal advice.

Time Limits on Claims

In Ireland, there are strict time limits for contesting a will. You must begin legal proceedings within six months from the date that probate is granted. If you miss this deadline, you may still be able to contest the will, but you will need to seek permission from the court.

Legal Procedures and Documentation

To contest a will in Ireland, you will need to file a legal claim in the appropriate court. You will also need to provide evidence to support your claim. This may include:

  • Documentation to prove your relationship to the deceased
  • Evidence of any financial dependence on the deceased
  • Evidence that the deceased was not of sound mind when they made the will
  • Evidence that the deceased was unduly influenced when they made the will

Once you have filed your claim, the court will review the evidence and make a decision. If the court finds in your favour, changes will be made to the will to reflect your entitlement. If the court does not find in your favour, the will remains unchanged.

Remember that contesting a will can be a complex and emotional process. It is important to seek legal advice and support throughout the process to ensure that your rights are protected.

Potential Outcomes of a Contest

If you decide to contest a will in Ireland, there are several potential outcomes that may occur. These outcomes can range from a full revocation of the will to mediation and settlement.

Full Revocation

If a will is fully revoked, it means that the entire document is deemed invalid. This can occur if the court finds that the will was not properly executed, or if there is evidence of fraud or undue influence. In this case, the deceased’s estate will be distributed according to the rules of intestacy, which means that the deceased’s assets will be divided among their surviving family members according to a set formula.

Partial Amendments

In some cases, the court may find that certain provisions of the will are invalid, while others are still enforceable. This can occur if the court finds that certain provisions were made under duress or undue influence, but that other provisions were made freely and voluntarily. In this case, the court may amend the will to reflect the valid provisions, while invalidating the rest.

Mediation and Settlement

In some cases, it may be possible to avoid a lengthy and costly court battle by entering into mediation and settlement negotiations. Mediation involves a neutral third party who helps both sides come to an agreement. Settlement negotiations involve both sides agreeing to a compromise that is acceptable to everyone involved. If successful, mediation and settlement can save time, money, and emotional stress for all parties involved.

It’s important to note that contesting a will can be a complex and emotionally charged process. If you’re considering contesting a will, it’s important to seek legal advice from a qualified solicitor who can guide you through the process and help you understand your options.

For support with contesting a Will, please get in touch with our expert solicitors at SG Murphy. 

Trust related disputes 

Probate administration can be complicated, with many potential disputes that may arise, including trust related disputes. 

Our experts can offer contentious probate legal support in a variety of circumstances, for instance, where there are disagreements between trustees, or disputes about how trust documents should be interpreted. 

Will executor disputes  

Taking on the role of a Will executor is a huge responsibility, and it is not uncommon for related disputes to arise. If the deceased did not leave a valid Will, disputes may arise regarding the estate administrator. In this case, our solicitors can provide comprehensive support with contested probate where there is no Will. 

Related disputes may concern the conduct of estate administrators, or Will executors. For example, where a Will executor has not correctly followed the Will instructions, or where an estate administrator has not acted with the best interests of the beneficiaries in mind. 

Disagreements may also occur where suspected fraudulent activities have occurred, for instance, where executors have misrepresented assets or altered the Will contents. 

For more information about probate disputes and how long probate takes in Northern Ireland, our contested probate solicitors are happy to help. 

Inheritance Act Claims 

In Northern Ireland, individuals can make Inheritance Act Claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) (Northern Ireland) Order 1979. 

It is possible to raise an Inheritance Act Claim if you were a dependant of the deceased, and their Will does not reasonably provide for you. Equally, dependants may apply where there is no Will, and under intestacy rules, they have not been left what you need. 

Our solicitors can help you to assess whether you have appropriate grounds for a claim, and where you do, assist you to negotiate toward a settlement. Where your pursuit of a claim requires Court proceedings, we can offer robust assistance. 

Frequently asked questions about probate disputes 

What is a contentious probate? 

A contentious probate is a type of legal dispute or disagreement related to a deceased individual’s estate, and how that estate is administered. 

Probate disputes can arise in relation to many different matters, for example, challenges to the Will and its validity. Other common areas of dispute include Inheritance Act Claims, disputes concerning the conduct of Will executors, or disagreements between trustees. 

On what grounds can you challenge a Will? 

In Northern Ireland, there are various grounds under which you can dispute a Will. These include: 

Undue influence: Where the testator was unduly influenced or coerced into adjusting their Will so that it does not accurately present their intentions. 

Lack of execution: In order to be valid, a Will must meet specific legal requirements. Where these are not met, for instance, a Will is not correctly witnessed, it may be challenged on grounds of lack of execution. 

Lack of testamentary capacity: Meaning that the person who created the Will (testator) did not have the necessary mental capacity to do so. 

Forgery or fraud: Where there is evidence to show that the Will has been forged, or is fraudulent, it is possible to contest a Will on such grounds. 

Lack of knowledge and approval: If it can be shown that the individual who created the Will did not fully approve of or understand the Will, a challenge may be raised upon these grounds. 

What happens if a Will is disputed? 

Where a Will is disputed, generally, those parties in dispute should first attempt alternative dispute resolution processes, to resolve matters without going to Court. 

For instance, mediation is one common dispute resolution method. The involved parties arrange to meet along with an impartial mediator, attempting to negotiate and work towards a resolution. 

If it is not possible to resolve matters out of Court, it is usually necessary to take the dispute through the Court proceedings. 

Who can make an Inheritance Act Claim? 

In Northern Ireland, those who can make a claim under the Inheritance Act include civil partners or spouses. Former spouses or civil partners can raise claims providing that they have not remarried and have remained financially dependent on the deceased person (until they passed away). 

Cohabitating partners may also make a claim if they were living with the deceased for two years (minimum) before the deceased passed away, and were financially dependent on them. 

Others who can raise a claim include financially dependent children of the deceased, whether biological or adopted. 

Do I need a solicitor for contentious probate? 

It is not a requirement to have a lawyer to solve a contentious probate, however, it is often incredibly difficult to solve probate disputes without legal assistance. 

To protect your interests, and ensure that your rights are exercised, working with an expert solicitor is highly recommended. 

Speak to SG Murphy Probate Disputes Solicitors in Belfast 

To discuss your needs with our probate disputes solicitors, please contact us now on 028 90 36 5595 or by email at law@sgmurphysolicitors.com