What to do when there’s a dispute with the executor or between beneficiaries

by Kidd Rapinet on April 23, 2021
Man in red checking paperwork

Friends and family often take on the role of executor of a Will. This means they’re the people/persons who administer the Will. While the role can be very rewarding, it can also be a very stressful experience if conflicts occur.

The first thing to address is what exactly is a beneficiary? When we’re talking about Wills, a beneficiary is a person or legal entity (such as a charity), who has been named to inherit something. This could be money or other benefits such as land or property.

Common issues beneficiaries face

A beneficiary may be unhappy with the way the executor has been administering the Will, they could experience conflict with another beneficiary or they may feel they’re entitled to more than what has been left to them.

Other issues a beneficiary may encounter include:

  • Delays obtaining a Grant of Probate by the Executors
  • Delays administering the estate once probate has been obtained
  • Lack of information from the executor or a failure to disclose accounts
  • An executor abusing their position. They may for example be dishonest about funds from the estate or try to buy property from the deceased person’s estate for themselves

What to do when there’s a dispute between beneficiaries

What should you do if you’re a beneficiary and there are disagreements over the execution of a Will?

Understand your legal rights

As a beneficiary, you only have legal rights over your share of the inheritance once the estate has been distributed. You do however have a right to information before then which means you can be kept up to date with the administration of the estate.

If you’re worried an executor isn’t being as open as they should be, a solicitor can help you make a request to see the accounts. Additionally, if you feel an estate is being mismanaged, you have the right to take legal action against the executor.

Do you have grounds for contesting the Will?

In the UK, there are a number of grounds in which a Will can be contested.

  • Lack of testamentary capacity (the person who made the Will did not have the relevant mental capacity to understand their actions)
  • Undue influence or coercion took place
  • Lack of knowledge or approval. If a Will has been executed under suspicious circumstances, for example you suspect the person was threatened with physical violence or subjected to verbal bullying, the court must be satisfied that the person making the Will understood and approved the contents of their Will.
  • It has not been completed correctly under the Wills Act 1837
  • Forgery or fraud has occurred

Appoint a solicitor

In situations like this, it’s always advisable to seek legal advice early on. Inheritance law can be complicated and the last thing you want is to end up in a messy court battle. As well as being incredibly stressful during what is already an upsetting time, you could be left with a hefty legal bill with little to show for it.

Your solicitor will be able to advise you on the best course of action which could include:

  • Requesting a full inventory of the estate
  • Requesting a full inventory of the accounts
  • Applying to remove an executor and replace them with someone more suitable
  • Applying for the estate to be restored if the executor’s actions have caused it to lose value
  • Making a claim against the executor for breach of their duties

If you’re a beneficiary and would like further advice about contesting a Will, please use the form provided to get in touch with us.

These materials and content have been prepared for the benefit of their viewers/readers. They are intended for marketing purposes only and are of a general nature and do not constitute legal advice applicable to any particular facts or circumstances. Kidd Rapinet LLP and/or the author(s) accept no duty of care, responsibility or liability for any loss or damage which you or any third party may suffer as a result of any reliance or use by you or they of these marketing materials and content, except to the extent it is not legally possible to exclude such liability. If you require legal advice on your own situation, please contact us so we can discuss how we may assist.

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