Disputed Legacies

Disputed Legacies

Our dedicated team of contentious trust and probate specialists provide clear, practical and cost effective advice to charities faced with legacy disputes.

Legacy income is vital to many charities, and knowing the strengths and potential costs of a claim at the earliest opportunity will enable you to make informed decisions as to how best to use the charity’s resources in protecting your legacies.

In general, charities should not surrender all or part of their legacy unless it is to compromise a genuine dispute or has been authorised by the Charity Commission under section 106 of the Charities Act 2011. There will also soon be a new power to make small ex gratia payments without the need for Charity Commission consent (under section 331A of the Charities Act 2011, which is a new provision introduced by the Charities Act 2022, expected to come into force in Autumn 2022).

Numerous factors will weigh into the decision of charity trustees as to whether, and if so how, to resolve a dispute. Cost is a significant factor, but so too is the potential for negative publicity and the possible knock on impact on legacy income more generally.

The most important considerations are to ensure the steps taken are both within the charity’s powers and in its best interests.

We have a wide range of experience advising charities in relation to:

  • Defending claims pursuant to the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (the “Inheritance Act”);
  • Will validity challenges, including owing to concerns over capacity, undue influence, knowledge and approval and/or failure to comply with the necessary formalities;
  • Applications to the Charity Commission for approval to make an ex gratia payment;
  • How to obtain information concerning a legacy or estate;
  • Removal of executors, administrators and/or trustees;
  • Claims against executors, administrators and/or trustees for breach of duty;
  • Proprietary Estoppel;
  • Statutory Will applications;
  • Rectification of Wills (typically where there has been a mistake in the drafting);
  • Constructing of Wills (typically where the wording or meaning of a Will is unclear);
  • Claims for an inventory and account;
  • Professional Negligence.

In the right circumstances, our specialist team are big advocates of alternative dispute resolution (“ADR”) and have resolved numerous disputes using negotiation, mediation, expert determination and early neutral evaluation. Whilst ADR should always be considered, not all disputes can be resolved in this way and our team members are also adept at utilising the courts at all levels. Our team has strong connections with specialist Counsel, which ensures continuity of service and a genuine team approach.

As noted above, we understand that fees are often a concern, and we are always willing to discuss a variety of funding options with our clients, and we endeavour to provide accurate advice on costs as early as possible. We will keep you updated both on costs incurred, and your options to seek to reduce costs where possible, as matters progress.

Each of the lawyers in our specialist team have either completed, or are studying to be members of, ACTAPS (The Association of Contentious Trusts and Probate Specialists), which is a real mark of our quality and experience.

You might be interested in our recent webinar ‘Legacy disputes: a charity’s perspective’.

Recommended by Legal 500 as “providing good value and attentive service”.

Head of Team, Bernadette Baker, is noted in Chambers as being praised by clients for her “thorough approach” and “responsiveness”.