If you have been promised assets informally by a loved one, but they have not put the details in their will, your solicitor may be able to help you secure them after the person dies. Given that a valid will is supposed to accurately reflect the deceased’s wishes regarding the distribution of their property after their death, the emergence of agreements that were omitted from their will can cast doubt on the will’s validity, causing disputes between prospective beneficiaries. The main ways you may be able to claim against someone’s estate to get assets that you were promised include:
- Proprietary Estoppel
- A claim that you were financially dependent on the deceased and they failed to make adequate provision for you in their Will
- A claim for professional negligence if the pre-death agreement was omitted from the deceased’s will because of an error by the will writer or solicitor.
Contesting Deathbed Gifts and Wills
When someone is close to death, they may decide to give property, assets or business shares to a loved one. If there is no time to update an existing will, these so-called deathbed gifts and wills can be verbal agreements. Because they are hastily agreed and may not be written down, such deathbed gifts and wills can cause disputes after the individual has died.Your solicitors may be able to help you if you:
- Have received a deathbed gift that someone else is challenging
- Wish to dispute a gift given to someone else.
In some cases, a deathbed gift can contradict the provisions of a will. Estate beneficiaries could see their inheritance reduced because of a deathbed gift to someone else. Deathbed gifts and wills must meet several criteria to be valid. If these conditions are not met, the deathbed gift or will may be challenged.
If you were depending on a promised inheritance that failed to materialise in someone’s will, your solicitor may be able to help. Perhaps you sacrificed the opportunity to go to university to work in the family business because you were promised that you would inherit it. Proprietary Estoppel enforces a promise of property ownership if you have already made associated decisions that have left you in a worse position - usually financially. Proprietary Estoppel claims may apply if:
- You invested time and money in a property that you were promised.
- You worked for a lower wage on the understanding that you would inherit all or part of the business or farm.
- You abandoned your work to care for someone who promised you a share of their property in return.
Disappointed beneficiary claims
People sometimes omit pre-death agreements to leave specific possessions to loved ones from their will. This may be due to errors made by their solicitor or will writer, but such errors can be particularly costly for high net worth individuals with valuable assets. Will writers have a responsibility toward both the person making the will and to anyone who was intended to inherit. This means that you can claim against the will writer if you have failed to receive an expected inheritance because of their negligence. You may not secure the precise inheritance that you expected in such a claim, but your solicitor will work closely with you to achieve the best possible outcome for your unique circumstances.
Disputes involving property trusts and co-owned property
Disputes often occur in relation to properties held in trust and properties that are shared by multiple owners. Your solicitor may be able to help you if:
- You’ve inherited an interest in a property, and the co-owners don’t agree with you on what to do with it.
- You failed to receive an inheritance you were expecting.
- The trustees or beneficiaries do not agree with you on how to use a property held in trust
- You have an interest in a property, but you are unable to occupy it or receive income from it.
- A property has fallen in value due to neglect.
- Your lifetime entitlement to occupy a jointly-owned property is in doubt.
- You’ve invested in refurbishing or altering a jointly-owned property.