Contentions Trusts and Estates: Frequently Asked Questions

Eleanor Stenson and Paul Lewis, who specialise in contentious estates and will disputes, answer some of the questions you may have.

A member of my family has died and I am really disappointed not to have been left anything – especially since I think I am entitled to something. Is there anything I can do?

Depending on your circumstances, you may be entitled to make a claim in the estate, or it may be that the administration of the estate is not yet concluded. We would look at the facts of the matter and advise you on your options, as well as the cost implications of taking any further action.

I’d like to contest a will; under what circumstances can I do this?

It is possible to dispute a will if one of the following circumstances applies:

  • The will was not signed or witnessed properly by two witnesses in the same room as the testator (the person who made the will);
  • The testator:
    • was suffering from a recognisable impairment or disturbance of the mind;
    • did not make the will willingly because they were subjected to undue pressure and coercion;
    • was not aware that they were making a will, or did not know and approve the contents of the document;
  • The will was forged.

My father has died without leaving a will. My mother died a number of years ago and my brother and I are the only family left. All of my mother’s property was transferred to my father before she died. There are a number of properties in the estate that are in my father’s name. My brother has applied for a Grant of Letters of Administration and I am concerned that he will not administer the estate properly.

It is important that you promptly take advice on your position. Your brother must administer the estate in accordance with the intestacy rules, which set out how the property and cash in the estate will be distributed. As a child of the deceased, you would be entitled to an inheritance from the estate. We can advise you as to your statutory rights as a beneficiary under the estate and what options you have if the estate is not administered properly.

My wife and I have been appointed as joint executors of a family friend’s will. He has recently died and the estate is large and complicated. Relatives of the deceased have already begun to fall out about the distributions which are to be made – can you help?

Yes, we can help. The role of executor is complicated and onerous even where there is no dispute between the beneficiaries. It is important that you are both properly advised as to your obligations in administering the estate. There is a risk that the beneficiaries could take formal steps to challenge the will or how the estate is being administered. We are able to advise you on your position before and after any proceedings are issued in order to help you carry out your duties and obligations.

I am not happy with the way in which the executors of my relative’s estate are dealing with the property and assets – can I challenge them?

Yes. If you are beneficiary under an estate you have the right to ask the executors to provide you with information about the estate assets and to provide you with estate accounts. Executors are obliged to act properly in administering an estate and it is sometimes the case that lay executors are not made aware of these obligations and fail to do so.

Depending on the circumstances of the case, as a beneficiary under the estate, we will advise you as to your options in making your concerns clear and, if necessary, asserting your statutory rights.

Back to Contentious Trusts and Estates

Our team

Eleanor Stenson


Head of Contentious Trusts and Estates

Direct Line +44 (0)113 297 8933

Paul Lewis


Contentious Trusts and Estates

Direct Line +44 (0)113 831 3858

Sophie Brackenbury


Dispute Resolution

Direct Line +44 (0)113 831 3803