Oxford Probate Dispute Law Firm
Experienced Private Client Litigation Lawyers in Oxford
Helping you to find the solution
Will, trust and inheritance disputes can happen in any family. Whether you are involved in a challenge to the validity of a will, a dispute relating to a family trust or a claim for a share of a loved one’s estate, we can help you.
We have a team of specialist lawyers who can guide you through the complex and often emotional rollercoaster of a dispute over family wealth arising from a will, a trust or an intestacy (when someone dies without a will).
Our lawyers work with beneficiaries, executors, trustees and people who have been left out of a Will to cut through the legal jargon and provide sensible, practical and user friendly advice in an efficient and cost effective way.
Examples of the types of work we help our clients with include:
- Challenging and defending the validity of a will.
- Bringing and defending claims for provision from an estate.
- Trustee disputes.
- Applications in the Court of Protection including lifetime wills, welfare, children and the elderly.
- Advice regarding Powers of Attorney where a dispute has arisen.
- Advice in relation to lifetime gifts and legacies in wills.
- Removal and replacement of executors and trustees.
- Correcting drafting errors in wills and the meaning and effect of unclear terms in wills.
- Claims against professionals and will writers.
Disputes relating to family wealth come, all too often, at a time when families are bereaved. We can work with you to advise you on the best way to reach a solution between the parties in disagreement. Wherever possible we seek to reach settlement through negotiation or mediation.
Freeths’ wills, trusts and inheritance disputes team in Oxford are ranked in the Top Tier of the Legal 500. Not only have we acted in many high value and complex cases, but we understand the distress and upset caused by these disputes. We’re highly aware of how age, dementia or diverse family structures can complicate matters.
In The Times’ “Best Law Firms 2019”, Freeths Oxford are commended for inheritance and succession (private client) team. We are one of only 24 firms in the UK who are listed this category.
Can someone who has been left out of a will make a claim against an estate?
Under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975 certain categories of people may be able to bring a claim against an estate where a will or distribution under the intestacy rules does not make ‘reasonable financial provision’ for them. You may qualify as an applicant if you are:
- a spouse or civil partner of the deceased;
- a former spouse or former civil partner who has not remarried / entered into a new civil partnership;
- the deceased’s child or treated by the deceased as their child (e.g. a step child);
- anyone who was living with the deceased as husband and wife (or civil partner) for the two years immediately prior to the deceased’s death; or
- anyone who was financially dependent on the deceased immediately before the deceased’s death.
The court will consider a number of factors (including your own finances and the size of the deceased’s estate) to determine whether the will or intestacy rules make ‘reasonable financial provision’ for you. The court has the power to make what it deems to be an appropriate award if necessary and this be either a lump sum payment or other interest.
Will I have to go to court and how much will it cost?
Most contentious trust and probate disputes are settled out of court via alternative methods of dispute resolution, such as mediation or negotiation. However, if you are unable to settle your case and there is a trial, we will guide and support you through the process.
Court proceedings can be expensive but Freeths will work with you from the outset to keep costs down. If you are involved in active proceedings, we will advise you on the various funding options available and we will always consider whether we can assist you on a conditional fee arrangement (more commonly known as “no win, no fee” agreement) – each case is assessed on its own facts and merits.
Our Lawyers in Oxford
Sarah Foster heads the wills, trusts and inheritance disputes team in Oxford helping individuals and charities to deal with contested challenges to wills, claims against estates, disputes in the Court of Protection, trust disputes and the removal of executors and trustees. She is well known for her firm but fair approach to the resolution of disputes and is a fierce advocate of alternative dispute resolution (particularly mediation) recognising that in family disputes, it can be an extremely useful tool to bring about early closure and at minimal cost. Trials/contested hearings are the exception rather than the rule, but when they are the only option, clients have praised Sarah for her no nonsense, efficient and diligent approach.
Sarah was recently commended in the Times Best Law Firms 2019 report for inheritance and succession cases. She is also recognised in Legal 500 for her “wealth of experience in the field, which she can draw on to secure good results for clients” and is named as an Eminent Practitioner in Chambers, being described by a client as “very experienced, calm, professional and gave me the confidence that she was giving me best advice”.
Sarah is a member of the Association of Contentious Trust and Probate Specialists (ACTAPS) and an affiliate member of the Society of Trust and Estates Practitioners (STEP). Since 2013, she has balanced her private client practice with her duties as managing partner of the Oxford office of Freeths.
Sally Goodger acts for individuals and charity clients to resolve disputes arising out of challenges to wills, claims against estates and disputed trusts. Sally’s clients include executors, beneficiaries and trustees. Recognising that costs are often an issue when dealing with disputes, Sally provides clear and regular guidance as to the costs position to keep her clients informed.
Building close working relationships with her clients, Sally is able to deliver clear and jargon-free advice to help her clients work through the steps required to achieve a resolution. Disputes over wills/trusts and claims against estates arise at a time when families have lost a loved one, and Sally gains the trust of her clients by dealing sensitively with the issues that arise.
Sally is an associate member of the Association of Contentious Trust and Probate Specialists (ACTAPS) and the Legal 500 recognises Sally as “highly experienced, always communicates clearly and remains calm under pressure”.
Mona Schroedel has wide-ranging experience in acting for private clients and commercial clients. She has expertise in contentious probate and trust disputes, professional negligence claims, property claims, web fraud claims, and commercial matters.
Mona is always keen to explore alternative solutions for clients. Mona deals with all types of will disputes and claims over lifetime gifts, often involving lack of testamentary capacity and/or undue influence. She has experience of trust disputes acting for trustees in multimillion pound estates.
Clients like the clear and structured advice Mona provides and private clients appreciate the sympathetic manner in which Mona assists them through often very difficult cases (both emotionally and legally). Clients can rely on receiving a detailed and easy to understand explanation of the law from Mona and having their options set out for comparison.
Freeths will provide you with a focused plan from the beginning. We investigate the suitability of other funding arrangements in the right circumstances – not just where they are necessary. You will be given clear costs information from the outset, and we can help you through the process of funding your case.
As a full service firm, we can call on our impressive private client, tax, agricultural and commercial teams for support. Our team offer a wealth of knowledge and information guides regarding trusts, probate and estate administration.
Why Choose our Oxford Will Disputes and Contentious Trusts & Probate Solicitors?
- Freeths’ Oxford office is located just a short drive away from Oxford city centre
- We’re experts in wills, trust and inheritance disputes
- Our private client litigation lawyers are friendly and approachable, helping you to relieve stress
- You can trust our lawyers’ credentials – we’ve acted in many high value and complex cases
- Many of us are members of ACTAPS (Association of Contentious Trust and Probate Specialists) and hold qualifications with the STEP (Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners)
Examples of contentious trusts and probate cases in Oxford
- Successfully resisted a £2 million+ unusual mutual wills case, where it was alleged that because of that mutual will, our client held his late wife’s estate on trust for the claimant (a non-family member). Complex company and estate issues arose, given (i) our client’s 100% shareholding in estate companies and the claimant’s position as director in them; and (ii) the fact that our client and the claimant were joint executors of the late wife’s will. A settlement was reached prior to trial whereby a small % of the £2 million was paid, including costs.
- Acting for the claimant in contested Court of Protection proceedings, seeking the removal of attorneys. Following P’s death, the claim turned into a contested estate dispute worth £++M. Following extensive negotiations, that claim was settled without proceedings, allowing the estate then to be administered without further costs being incurred.
- Acting for trustees (trust land valued at about £1.2 million) in connection with an application to the court for determination of (i) the validity of the trust deed and (ii) the correct beneficiaries of the trust.
- Acted for the daughter in a disputed multi-jurisdictional estate. The deceased (born in Italy) had lived in England for over 40 years. His wife alleged that he had adopted England as his domicile of choice and made an Inheritance Act claim against his £1.5 million estate. We obtained witness evidence to show that he had not lost his domicile of origin. The claim was settled favourably at mediation.
- Acting for an administrator in a complex claim for an account on the footing of wilful default against former administrators. The events complained of spanned a period of over 30 years.
- Acting for a discretionary beneficiary in a will trust where the entire estate was left on discretionary trusts and our client was one of five discretionary beneficiaries, together with his four children. The estate was worth over £3.5m. Our client had been maintained by the deceased during lifetime and in the absence of a payment from the discretionary trust had a claim pursuant to the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. The matter was settled at a WP meeting. We acted on a CFA.
- A drafting error in a professionally drawn will resulted in the residuary estate passing to unintended intestacy beneficiaries. In the absence of the agreement of the unintended intestacy beneficiaries to rectify the will a claim for rectification was issued. The costs of the successful rectification claim were subsequently recovered from the will drafter’s insurers.
- Acted for three executors where the estate administration could not be concluded due to a dispute with the fourth executor. A claim was issued seeking the court’s determination as to the construction of the home made manuscript Will and the incorporation of a letter of wishes. Following a three day trial before Judge Russen QC judgment was handed down in April 2018 and can be read at http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Ch/2018/730.html
For further information about our Oxford Contentious Wills, Trusts and Probate solicitors, please contact Sarah Foster, Managing Partner, on 0345 271 6793 or submit a secure enquiry form.
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“Sarah is praised by sources for having ‘shown good judgment on what the issues were and how things were going’, is ‘a fine and measured litigator’, is a ‘very skilled and very thorough lawyer’ and has an ‘excellent attention to detail and a strong pedigree’.” Chambers & Partners
‘Doing the right thing’ is at the heart of Freeths. Find out more about our excellent client service and the strong set of values that guide the way we work.
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Contact: 03301 001 014