Contentious Probate Lawyers

We are a team of specialist contentious trusts and probate lawyers who have many years of experience in dealing with all types of dispute concerning wills, trusts and estates.

Navigate to

Guiding you through all aspects of contentious probate

Our services are designed to cater to a wide range of clients, including executors and trustees (both professional and lay), beneficiaries, individuals who believe they should be beneficiaries, and third-party creditors and debtors.

We encourage people to seek to resolve disputes without involving the court. We are experienced in advising clients concerning all forms of alternative dispute resolution, including mediation and Financial Dispute Resolution (‘FDR’) hearings. Should court proceedings prove necessary, we can assist clients in commencing court proceedings or defending them from when the claim is issued to a final contested hearing. We can also help with costs assessments and enforcement of judgments, where necessary.

Our team understands that being involved in a dispute concerning wills, trusts and probate can be stressful and emotional at a time when parties may also be grieving. We are sympathetic to the impact this can have and seek to work with our clients to bring about the best resolution for them in the circumstances.

Request legal advice on contentious probate

What is contentious probate?

Contentious probate covers all disputes concerning trusts, wills, and estates. Disputes may arise between executors and trustees or among executors, trustees, and beneficiaries. They could also involve conflicts between beneficiaries, disputes regarding an individual who believes they should be a beneficiary of the trust or estate, or disagreements between creditors, debtors, and the estate or trust.

Types of contentious probate disputes

Examples of contentious probate disputes include:

  • Disputes between executors or trustees regarding how an estate or trust should be administered.
  • Beneficiaries' claims that an executor or trustee is failing to comply with their duties to administer an estate or trust properly.
  • Claims by individuals that a will or trust document is not valid.
  • Claims by third parties against a will or trust.
  • Claims about the beneficial ownership of properties.
  • Claims against an estate for reasonable financial provision where an individual feels they have not been adequately provided for by a will or the rules of intestacy.
  • Claims challenging the presumption that an individual has died intestate if a valid, original will cannot be located.
  • Claims that a will fails to record the deceased's true wishes accurately.

Remember, this list is not exhaustive, highlighting the complexity and depth of contentious probate disputes.

Difference between contentious probate and contesting a will

‘Contentious probate’ covers a wide range of types of claims, including (but not limited to) disputes between executors, disputes between beneficiaries and executors, claims against an estate for reasonable financial provision, claims that a will is valid but does not accurately reflect the deceased’s true wishes, and claims regarding the beneficial ownership of a deceased’s property.

Contesting a will is limited to claims that a will is invalid. There are different bases for contesting a will, including that the deceased lacked the capacity to make a will, that they were unduly influenced, or that it was not executed (signed) properly. 

Grounds for a contentious probate

There may be various reasons someone is justified in pursuing a contentious probate claim. They could be an executor seeking to administer an estate, but the beneficiaries are refusing to agree the estate accounts. Or a beneficiary may consider that an executor has failed to administer the estate following the terms of the will.

An individual may consider that they are entitled to more than they a gifted in a will or under the intestacy rules. Or an occupant of a property may think they have a beneficial interest in the property. The most important element of any contentious probate claim is establishing the evidence that a wrong has been or is going to be committed.

A lack of evidence can mean that even if a claim feels justified, it is not a worthwhile exercise, as the court will rely on the evidence before making any final order. Sometimes, it is a case of gathering the evidence as we go (for example, correspondence can be used to demonstrate unreasonable conduct). 

Value of the estate 

The value of the estate or trust will be highly relevant to any contentious probate or trust claim. Contentious trusts and probate claims can be costly, time-consuming, and emotionally stressful. Therefore, the value of the claim is relevant to whether it is proportionate to pursue it.

If the value of the estate is unknown, our estate administration team may be able to assist in assessing its value, or we may need to obtain valuations of certain assets.

We must be clear from the outset (where possible) what assets the deceased owned. Of course, this may form part of the subject of the dispute, which will be established as the matter progresses.

"Craig Ridge is always a tough opponent but is a fair and honourable lawyer. In the event of a conflict I would be happy to refer my clients to him. I also work with his colleagues Georgia Stott and Joseph Martin. They are clearly well trained and supported within the team and are both a pleasure to deal with"

Legal 500

Challenging an executor

There may be many reasons why a beneficiary considers it necessary to challenge an executor. They may think that they are not appropriate for the role or that their conduct is not in accordance with the terms of the will. 

Contesting a will

There are several grounds for contesting a will, including a lack of capacity, undue influence, a lack of understanding as to the terms of the will, decisions having been made based on false information, or the will itself may not have been validly signed/executed. 

Inheritance Act claims 

Sometimes, individuals consider they have received insufficient provision from an estate.

If they fall into the class of persons entitled to make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, they may be able to claim greater provisions from the estate. Such persons include spouses, civil partners, children of the deceased, those treated as children of the deceased, and those being maintained by the deceased for at least two years immediately before the deceased’s death.

"Craig Ridge – knowledgeable, professional but above all a human being! He goes over & above for his clients, listens & makes sure he is thorough in his approach"

Legal 500

Creditor claims to the estate

It may be that a third party considers they have a claim against an estate, such as a creditor (i.e. someone to whom the deceased owed money or other assets).

The third-party could have loaned money to the deceased that have not been repaid, or the deceased failed to comply with the terms of a legal contract.

Not all claims survive the death of another person, but contractual claims for the payment of monies usually do.


Most contentious probate claims are resolved without involving the courts. Usually, this is done either by correspondence or by mediation. Mediation is a formal means of negotiating facilitated by an independent third party (the mediator).

The people involved in the dispute must agree to mediate and prepare position statements in advance so that everyone understands each other's position. The people involved will either attend the mediation in person or remotely, but it is essential that whoever attends has the authority to reach a legally binding settlement. Usually, the parties do not engage directly with each other during the mediation, although they can do so.

The mediator will move between each person, relaying messages from one side to another to encourage compromise. If an agreement is reached, legally binding settlement terms will be signed by all parties.

Why choose us as your contentious probate lawyers

With extensive knowledge of all aspects of contentious probate, as well as personal taxation, property law and dispute resolution, where there are arguments or disagreements over a will, we can offer proactive and cost-effective solutions to complicated and difficult disputes.

As an award-winning, full-service legal practice, we pride ourselves on offering a holistic service to clients. We draw on the expertise of our colleagues across the practice, using a multi-disciplinary approach to tackle other legal issues that may arise.

Down-to-earth and practical, our lawyers are renowned for guiding clients clearly and methodically, providing bespoke advice to achieve the best outcomes. We also have a reputation for clear communication, making sure you understand your options and legal responsibilities.

Family Lawyers Office (8)
Accent colour for edge of slider Accent colour for edge of slider


A contentious probate lawyer advises in relation to all types of claim concerning estates and trusts and wills. This includes acting for executors, trustees, beneficiaries and third parties in relation to claims against an estate, against an executor, trustee, and against a beneficiary.

They act prior to court proceedings having been commenced, including in relation to attempts to settle a dispute, as well as in relation to court proceedings concerning estates, trusts and wills.

It varies depending on the type of claim, and the engagement of the parties. If the parties are reasonable in their approach and able to resolve matters without involving the court, a contentious probate dispute can be resolved within a few months. However, particularly contentious estates that encounter multiple issues and claims can take years to be resolved. On average, claims are resolved in approximately 18 months.

Depending on the type of claim, there may be no precise time limit by which you have to make a claim. If the claim is made under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 on the basis that the claimant is seeking greater provision from the estate, they have 6 months from the date of the Grant of Probate/Letters of Administration to make their claim without the permission of the court. After that, they will require the court’s permission.

If a claim is challenging the validity of the will for example, there is no strict deadline but a claimant is expected to act within a reasonable period, otherwise a defendant can argue that they should not be allowed to make their claim any more. If the claim is against the estate and based on a contract, for example, there may be a deadline of 6 years, depending on the nature of the contract.

The costs vary greatly depending on the type of claim and conduct of the parties. If the parties are able to engage reasonably and resolve matters without the need to involve the court, costs can be between £5,000 and £10,000 plus VAT. However, if a dispute proceeds to a contested court hearing, it may be that each party has incurred tens of thousands of pounds in costs by the time it is resolved.

Most contentious trust and probate claims are dealt with by the business and property court, which is part of the High Court. Some claims may be suitable for the county court. We usually issue claims in Birmingham, but it may depend on the location of the parties.

Meet the contentious probate team