A big consideration for many when they are thinking about how to contest a will or are facing a challenge to the validity of a will, is how much it will cost, whether they can afford to pursue the matter, and who pays the costs.
That is particularly so as the costs of such disputes, known as contentious probate cases, can be very high.
What are the costs?
It is always difficult to provide accurate estimates of how much the costs could be for contentious probate cases. That is largely because each case is different and unique. Also, the manner in which the court or the other side approach the same can change.
However, as general ball-park figures, we often say that:
to get to the point of a negotiated settlement, the costs could be in the region of £10,000 - £25,000 plus VAT and disbursements; and
to take a case through the entire court process to a trial or final hearing, the costs could be in the region of £60,000 - £100,000 plus VAT and disbursements.
Who pays the costs?
The usual position in most forms of litigation, particularly in contentious probate cases, is that “the loser pays the winner’s costs”.
So, if you were successful in contesting a will, or you were successful in defending a challenge to the validity of a will, then you would normally expect the other side to pay your costs (or a portion of them).
However, the court has a wide discretion as to what order they can make as to costs, including
one party paying the other party’s costs, either in full or in part,
the costs of both parties being paid by the estate in question, or
each party bearing their own costs.
Further, a number of factors will be considered when the court considers what order to make regarding costs. Those will include whether any party has made a settlement offer during the course of the dispute that wasn’t accepted, and how that offer compares to the outcome at trial.
If a settlement is reached at any stage, then costs are just something that will need to be considered and will be subject to the negotiations that take place.
Private funding – paying our fees as the case progresses, usually on a monthly basis;
Deferred funding – paying our fees at the conclusion of the case; and
No-Win, No-Fee – only paying our fees if the case is successful.
We are here for you
If you wish to contest a will, you have been notified of someone wanting to contest a will that you are either dealing with or benefit from, then please contact our Contested Wills, Trusts and Estates Team on 01823 625841.
We handle a variety of disputes and issues surrounding wills and estates. Further, we are able to offer high quality, cost-effective legal advice on such matters, with flexible funding arrangements such as Conditional Fee Agreements (i.e. No-Win, No-Fee arrangements) also being available.