Contentious Probate – anything but boring!

“No way – that’s so boring” was my 14 year old self’s response to the only bit of careers advice I remember receiving at school. The result of the mammoth, handwritten (obviously – it was 1991), questionnaire I had spent a lesson completing was that I should be a solicitor. “No thanks Sir”. (I wanted to be an inventor.) I very much doubt I had any idea what solicitors did with their days, but whatever it was, it was definitely dull.

Fast forward a few years and, guess what, having accepted that inventing things probably wasn’t my bag, I qualified as a solicitor. I hasten to add that this was nothing to do with the school questionnaire which I had forgotten about until the other day. To be quite honest, it was a purely practical decision. I wanted a job that would allow me to stay in the countryside, work flexibly if I decided to have a family one day, and which had decent prospects. I don’t think I ever expected it to be particularly fascinating. How wrong I was about that.

I realised early on that I enjoyed helping people solve their civil disputes and, in particular, those involving inheritance and trusts. I feel lucky and honoured to have specialised in that field at Blanchards Bailey for many years and, this year, to have had my specialist skills recognised by being named as a Next Generation Partner by the Legal 500 – a huge accolade.

There is plenty in the media these days about contentious probate claims – often focussing on disputes over the validity of wills. And we deal with plenty of those, usually the argument being over whether the person who made the will had the mental capacity to do so, or whether they had been coerced by someone. These cases are inherently interesting as the facts behind them, the family history, and the assets within the estate are unique. Excuse the cliche, but every case is different.

However, what you do not hear so much about are the quirky cases we come across. I have acted for beneficiaries who had to prove that their father died after midnight on a certain day in order to receive their inheritance. We used police transcripts, phone records, weather reports and analysis of the stains on a carpet to do this. Later wills have mysteriously appeared some months after death, requiring handwriting analysis to establish whether they are genuine or forged. Numerous disputes over the ownership of ashes have resulted in family members weighing them out and dividing them into agreed shares. Not to mention the battles over vintage vacuum cleaners, whales’ teeth and fridge magnet collections.

My area of law is challenging, intense and often very sad. But boring? Absolutely not.

To learn more about our Litigation practice (or service) as detailed by Lucy, visit our website or please contact the team on 01258 459361.

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