Personal Law
November 2, 2023

What is Contentious Probate?

Contentious Probate refers to any disputes about an individual's estate when they are no longer here. This process can be difficult for families and lead to many mixed feelings, but understanding when an estate can be contested can help answer many questions and make a troubling time less confusing for all. The most common types of probate disputes are ‘will disputes’, which is about questioning the validity of a will.

What is an Inheritance Act claim?

If you have been left out of a will or have been left less than you were expecting you may have a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. This legislation protects those who were financially dependent on the deceased but have not been left sufficient provision out of the deceased’s estate. It is also possible to bring a claim where there is no will and the rules of intestacy have been applied. If an Inheritance Act claim is successful, the court will change the way in which the deceased’s estate is distributed, as if the deceased had made provision for the claimant.

Who can contest a will?

Claims are most commonly brought by the deceased’s spouse/civil partner.

A claim can also be pursued by:

·        The deceased’s former spouses/civil partners (but only if they have not remarried);

·        The deceased’s children (minors or adults);

·        A person who cohabited with the deceased for at least two years before the date of death; or

·        A person who was financially maintained by the deceased.

On what grounds can an individual contest a will?

The grounds to contest a will under the Inheritance Act vary depending on who is bringing the claim. If the claimant is a spouse or civil partner of the deceased, then they simply need to show that they have been left less than they otherwise could have expected to receive. As a starting point, the court will consider what they could have expected to receive if they had divorced the deceased.

For all other categories of claimant, it is necessary to show that reasonable financial provision was not made by the deceased. This means such financial provision as would be reasonable for the claimant’s maintenance. This is a higher bar than for claimants who are spouses or civil partners of the deceased, and who are not limited to claiming such financial provision as would be reasonable for their maintenance.

What factors will the court consider?

Every case is different, but the court will always be guided by factors that include:

·      The financial resources and needs of the claimant;

·      The financial resources and needs of the other beneficiaries;

·      Any obligations that the deceased might have had towards the claimant;

·      Any disability that the claimant might have;

·      The size of the deceased’s estate; and

·      The relationship between the claimant and the deceased.

In the case of a claim pursued by a spouse/civil partner, the court will also consider the age of the claimant and the length of the marriage/civil partnership, as well as any contribution made by the claimant to the welfare of the deceased’s family and home.

Is there a time limit to contest probate and make a claim?

A claim under the Inheritance Act must be made within six months of the date that the grant of probate is issued. While it is possible to bring a claim after this time, special permission will be required from the court and this is usually only given in exceptional circumstances.

Need to talk to us?

The Dispute Resolution team at Berry & Lamberts Solicitors are able to offer advice and practical guidance about bringing or defending an inheritance claim, as well as other contentious probate topics, including disputes between executors and challenges to the validity of a will. Please telephone 01892 526344 or email

Fixed Fee Appointments

If suitable, we offer an initial one hour appointment with a Dispute Resolution Solicitor for a fixed cost of £195 + VAT. This gives you the opportunity to discuss your matter and consider your options on a fixed cost basis.

The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.

Let's Share

Related Posts

You Might Also Like

Not what you're looking for?

View All Posts