Contentious probate can take months or even years to settle in complex cases. However, the number of probate cases being contested continues to rise.
The media has highlighted the estate of the late Peter Ustinov, whose family is still locked in battle over his estate, nine years after he died.
Although the famous actor left a multi million pound estate and had even prepared a Will well in advance of his death, the mounting legal fees may mean that much of his estate will have been wasted in this way.
With the traditional family structure having been altered beyond recognition, probate is now a much more complicated process than it used to be, with step parents, step children and multiple parentage posing more challenges.
It is more common than you may think, for a person to promise to make someone they love a beneficiary of their estate, only to fail to live up to that promise, on their death.
For example, an elderly lady with no family may promise to leave a sum of money to a kindly neighbour or friend, only to then leave her entire estate to charity.
Or perhaps someone who cares for an individual may be promised items or money, only for it all to be left to a distant relative instead.
It could be argued of course, that this decision was made at the discretion of the deceased person who of course was entitled to change their mind and not inform the person.
Be wary of relying upon a verbal promise made by an individual, if it is not supported formally through a Will.
To make a claim in this instance, the court must decide whether or not the surviving person was “reasonable” to rely upon the promise and whether they have suffered considerable harm from it not being followed through.