Contentious Probate

It is a fact of life that the death of someone close (whether family or otherwise) will evoke a huge number of emotions.  It is not simply a question of grief but also facing one’s own mortality.  This in turn can lead to one questioning one’s own values and unfortunately can give rise to one of the seven vices, namely greed.  What should be a straightforward process of dealing with a deceased’s estate can become challenged for various reasons and that challenge can be motivated by various psychological and emotional stresses.

If someone dies without leaving a Will then there is a statutory code for how to deal with the resulting intestacy.  However, even if a Will is found it can be open to challenge with arguments such as undue influence or whether the person who has died had the requisite mental capacity when the Will was made.  There may be reasons why the deceased chose to cut out somebody from the Will and that person can feel unvalued and a sense of right to be part of the estate.  Sometimes time can help the process but often the emotional battle becomes the means of delaying dealing with the underlying grief and sense of loss.

What should be a straightforward process of dealing with an Estate can become a wholly unedifying dispute.

At GSC we have experience of handling this sort of dispute both from the legal perspective and also from the emotional side including the following (which is by no means an exhaustive list):

  • Challenging the validity of a Will due to a lack of formality or the testamentary capacity of the Will maker.
  • Seeking awards under the Inheritance (Provisions for Family and Dependents) legislation.
  • Challenging the manner in which the personal representative is conducting the handling of the estate.
  • Disputes between beneficiaries as to their entitlement.
  • Claims made by or against the estate by third parties.
  • Donatio causa mortis where shortly before death a deceased gave a gift to someone and query whether the gift was complete.
  • Estate duty queries.
  • There can also be jurisdictional problems where the deceased had assets in various countries. There can be conflicts between the rights of the beneficiaries within each jurisdiction as there is no unified (i.e. worldwide) law relating to handling and distribution of a deceased’s estate.

Michael’s excellent legal knowledge, guidance and professionalism enabled a successful defence. He is a straight talker, getting to the heart of the issues quickly. Tactically astute with excellent negotiation skills. I would highly recommend Michael in any Commercial litigation.

Michael Shapiro is concise in his advice and adopts a pragmatic approach to challenges delivering realistic and enterprising solutions which produce results.

Michael is our first call whenever we need any legal advice. Straight talking, commercial astute, knowledgeable and honest, he has consistently produced results that result in better outcomes for my business. I am pleased to call him our lawyer and partner.

I have known Michael for 15 years, he is dynamic in his approach to the various problems we have put his way. He gets to the heart of the problem quickly and provides a very workable solution. His litigation skills are excellent and forceful with the other party. I very much like him on my side.

Michael Shapiro is an experienced litigator who has a very calm and collected approach to his job. He is never phased by the other side, and has an excellent manner with even the most difficult clients.

Have a Question? Get in touch

If you would like to learn more about how we can help you resolve commercial disputes, please contact:

Michael ShapiroMichael Shapiro, Partner and Head of Litigation on email at, or telephone on 020 7822 2222
Barry Samuels – ConsultantBarry Samuels, Solicitor/Consultant on email at, or telephone on
020 7822 2222

Or complete the contact form below.