What will it cost me?
After our initial consultation with you will consider a number of different ways in which your claim can be funded. Not all will be suitable in every case. Legal costs are notoriously difficult to estimate but we will always endeavour to provide you with an estimate of the costs on the matter, broken down into stages if appropriate.
The alternatives available include
‘No Win No Fee’ Agreement – properly known as a Conditional Fee Agreement or CFA. If this is considered suitable by us we will agree to only charge you if the case is won on your behalf. As we also adopt a risk in such cases then we will receive a percentage uplift on our fees should the claim be successful. We will always require you to pay direct any disbursements (out of pocket expenses and payments to others e.g. barristers, court fees, experts etc).
Discounted CFA. This is similar to the No Win No Fee / CFA arrangement above, but in cases of higher risk we may propose that we act on the basis that you pay us amounts for our costs, but this would be on a reduced hourly rate (typically 50%). Again as we also adopt a risk in such cases then we will receive a percentage uplift on our fees should the claim be successful. We will always require you to pay direct any disbursements (out of pocket expenses and payments to others e.g. barristers, court fees, experts etc).
Fixed cost. In certain cases we may be prepared to give you a fixed price for the work. In this way you know exactly what it will cost you in advance.
Hourly rate. The traditional method of charging at hourly rates for the work done is another method we may consider with you. This is normally used where the case has high risks or is legally or factually complicated and these factors make a CFA inappropriate. If we propose hourly rates then we will also give you estimates for various stages of the case.
Insurance Funding. It may be that you have insurance cover for your legal costs. This is unusual for such disputes but you should always investigate this as early as possible as Insurers may refuse to indemnify you if they are not notified of potential claims early.
Damages Based Agreement : In 2013 the law is likely to change to allow us to consider agreeing to take on a case on the basis that if we win we will take an agreed percentage of any damages.
Legal Aid. We are not able to assist you with funding under the Legal Aid scheme.
In a litigation matter you must carefully consider the consequences of failing in that litigation and in those circumstances you may be liable to pay the costs of some other parties in the proceedings. Such costs are assessed by the court if not agreed between the parties. Responsibility for these always remains with you, and, apart from possibly where you have insurance cover, does not change whichever charging option is offered.
Qn 1: Is there a time limit for making a claim on a Will or under the Inheritance Act?
See our page on time limits generally by clicking here. On a claim under the Inheritance Act proceedings must be issued within six months of the date of the Grant of Probate. It is possible to request that the court extends this time limit, but you should not rely upon this There are also ways of delaying the issue of the grant of probate which would give you extra time to consider any claim. If you believe that a grant is imminent or that the time limits are about to expire please contact us urgently.
Claims based on other challenges to a Will, eg invalidity have different time limits and we would need to discuss these with you in detail before advising.
Qn 2: Inheritance Act claims . Who can claim – do I have to be a relative?
The Act is wide and covers more than direct relatives. People who can claim include direct family members but also extend to girlfriend or boyfriend / common law partners, friends and those who were being supported by the deceased. The rules are complicated and each situation is different. We do recommend that you contact us for a detailed discussion
Qn 3: My ‘common law partner’ has died. What can I do? Do I have a claim?
If there is a Will and you are included in it you will receive what was bequeathed to you (subject to any challenge on validity and a possible claim under the Inheritance Act). If there is no Will then the estate is dealt with under the Intestacy Rules (Click here for our guide to what happens on intestacy). Unfortunately you will see that there are no rights on intestacy for a “common law” partner even if they have been together for a long period of time. Here you will need to consider a claim under the Inheritance Act – remember there are time limits for such claims
Qn 4: I don’t have a copy of the Will. How do I get one?
If you are not the Executor then you should ask them for a copy. They are under no obligation to do so but you should always ask for an explanation if they refuse. If a Grant of Probate has been obtained then you should ask the Probate Registry for a copy.
Qn 5: What is the Inheritance Act?
The Inheritance Act is properly called The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. This provides a way for people to challenge a Will or claim on an estate if they did not receive reasonable financial provision from the estate of the deceased. The Act allows the court to overrule the Will or intestacy rules and distribute in a different way if they think there is a proven claim. For more details see our page on the Act by clicking here
Qn 6: The Executors are not behaving properly and not finalising the estate and paying me what I am entitled to. What can I do?
You should always ask the Executor first if there is any reason for a delay. If you are still worried about their behaviour, or there is no good reason, then we may be able to assist. It may be necessary to apply to have the Executor removed and a new Executor appointed. Similarly if you think the Executor is behaving improperly – e.g. embezzling funds, then this is a serious matter. Executors are in a position of responsibility and if there is a problem with the way the Executor is handling the estate affairs you may have to apply to remove them.
Qn 7: What do you charge
Please see above to see our cost structure
Qn 8: I’m an executor – what do I do if I get a claim against the estate?
We would always recommend that you seek legal advice if someone makes a claim. If you ignore the claim (or a potential claim) but go ahead and distribute the funds in the estate, you could be liable should the claim succeed.
Qn 9: There are problems with the estate – the Will is unclear who pays to sort it out?
If the Will has been drawn up in a way that is unclear then if legal advice is needed the costs are normally paid out of the estate funds. The situation can though vary widely and we would recommend you contact us for advice.
Qn 10: I want to contest a Will but the Deceased didn’t live in England & Wales
We can only help you directly if the deceased was resident in England and Wales. We are happy though to see if we can recommend you to another lawyer in a different country who may be able to assist
Qn 11: Can you help wherever we are in England & Wales?
We deal with claims across the whole of England & Wales. Our initial contact will normally be by telephone. In complicated cases it may be necessary to arrange to meet you to discuss the case.
Qn 12: What is a ‘Grant of Representation’?
Where someone dies leaving an estate that needs resolving and distributing, there are three main types of order obtained to assist with this. These are known collectively as grants of representation
- Grant of probate – this is where there is a Will and there is an executor willing to act.
- Grant of letters of Administration – where the deceased died without leaving a Will (Intestate).
- Grant of letters of administration with will annexed – if there is a Will but none of the executors named in the Will are willing to act.
Qn 13 : Will we end up in court if we make a claim?
Many people are worried about having to appear in court or face relatives over an argued estate. We always endeavour to settle cases in the most timely and cost effective manner. Whilst this may necessitate issuing proceedings, either to secure your position or to ensure it is taken seriously, we will always look to settle the case without it reaching the court for a decision.
We use a number of different approaches. These can include organising family meetings, mediation or discussions between legal representatives. These very often lead to the case being resolved without the need for a hearing. If hearings are necessary we will be with you at all times guiding and assisting.
Most cases are settled without the need to go to court, but the courts do not shy away from assisting people who are contesting a Will or benefiting those who have been overlooked.
Qn 14: Who do we need to tell about the case?
We will only notify those who are directly affected and relevant. This normally is the Executors and possibly the named beneficiaries. You will be told who is being involved in court proceedings or written to before this takes place.
Qn 15: What happens if we want to instruct you?
After our initial discussions we will consider if we can help you. If so then we will write to you setting out our advice and recommendations and our proposed terms of engagement. This will include a proposal as to the method of charging.
We will set out in that letter the next stages we would recommend being taken and the timescales for that. When the engagement letters and any other documents we need are returned, we will be able to proceed. Depending on the method of charging we may ask you to pay us some monies on account of costs.
Whilst we normally deal with matters by telephone or e-mail we are always happy to meet with you to discuss future actions if you prefer.
Qn 16: Are you regulated?
Yes. DisputingWills.com is brought to you by Sydney Mitchell Solicitors based in Birmingham. Sydney Mitchell is the trading name of Sydney Mitchell LLP a Limited Liability Partnership. Registered in England No. OC342756
We are authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA Number 513895) and hold worldwide professional indemnity insurance