Trust and Estate Disputes

Our Trust and Estate Disputes Department consists of experienced Litigation and Private Client lawyers who bring together a wide range of skills and experience to achieve practical solutions in the best interests of our clients.

The department takes a cost-effective and pragmatic approach whilst providing expert advice on a wide range of Contentious Probate and Court of Protection matters. We act for executors, beneficiaries, trustees, and administrators in bringing and defending claims.

Our department handles the following types of cases:

Inheritance Act 1975 claims

Even if a valid will exists, an Inheritance Dispute Claim can be made against the deceased’s estate under the Inheritance (Provisions for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 for Inadequate Provision. Most Inheritance Act claims have to be brought within six months of the Grant of Representation being issued.

Claims relating to undue influence, duress and fraud

Was the Testator free from duress and undue influence? (For example, threats that override a Testator’s own intentions)?

Claims relating to the validity of a Will

Is the Will signed by the Testator and 2 independent witnesses? Did the Testator have sufficient mental capacity? Did the Testator know and approve the contents of the Will?

Trust disputes

Do you have problems with the administration of a Trust? Beneficiaries and trustees each have rights and can bring claims, but expert advice is needed.

Inheritance Tax disputes

Sometimes disputes can arise either with HMRC or between beneficiaries in relation to the payment of tax. Legal advice should be taken at the earliest possible opportunity in such matters, as delays in making tax payments can result in penalties being imposed on an Estate.

Claims relating to Intestacy

If there is no Will the Estate of the deceased will be distributed by the Intestacy Rules which can often result in dispute and confusion, as all beneficiaries inheriting from the estate must be identified before the estate can be distributed.

Propriety Estoppel claims

Sometimes a person will work for many years relying on a promise that they will be left something in a Will – which never materialises. There has to be clear evidence of a real loss caused by reliance and these cases can be hard to prove.

Chattel disputes

Often disputes arise when dealing with the deceased’s personal possessions. The starting point when considering the distribution of chattels is the deceased person’s Will and whether any chattels were jointly owned.

Interpretation of Wills

If a Will is unclear, a claim can be brought to ask the Court to declare the correct interpretation.

Statutory Will applications, approval of gifts applications and other Court of Protection actions

We also are able to deal with applications to the Court of Protection in relation to disputes where an individual has lost the mental capacity to deal with matters himself/herself.

Injunctions

In the case of some Estate disputes, injunctions can be issued to prevent the executors from accessing certain investments and/or preventing the distribution of an estate. We are able to advise on such matters and if an injunction is issued, you should take legal advice immediately because there are often strict Court time limits involved.

We are also experienced in the use of mediation to resolve disputes in the most cost and time efficient way and will adopt mediation and other forms of dispute resolution to achieve the best solutions for our clients.

We offer a range of funding options, including private funding, conditional fee agreements (often referred to as “no win, no fee” agreements) and we can also advise on different insurance products available to cover the cost of pursuing your claim.

Some of our specialist experience:

  • Securing increased provision under the 1975 Act for disappointed beneficiaries
  • Conducting Court of Protection proceedings
  • Defending allegations of undue influence
  • Obtaining an emergency freezing injunction to prevent removal of assets from jurisdiction
  • Helping families with extensive trust and corporate restructuring in the face of family dysfunction and breakdown
  • Preventing misappropriation of an estate and trust assets and securing return
  • Mediating proprietary estoppel claims over farms to secure charity legacies


Beatrice Calderbank worked on the following reported cases whilst at leading international law firm Withers LLP:

JF and MF v Hexagon Investments Limited [2014], in which the Cayman Grand Court considered whether transfers had been made onto trust which would have given rise to a significant tax liability.

A 2014 reported case in which an account was taken of a professional trustees’ fees.

Fischer v Diffley [2013] EWHC 4567, a dispute concerning the validity of a will in which the claimants alleged the deceased lacked testamentary capacity.

Acting for the trustees from the first instance to the Supreme Court in the Hastings-Bass matter of Futter v Futter [2013] UKSC 26 in their application to set aside an advancement as a result of incorrect tax advice.

RBS Coutts (Cayman) Ltd v W and Others [2010] (2) CILR 348, a landmark case on trusts in divorce and Cayman firewall legislation.

What clients have to say:

“Four solicitors thought our case was a lost cause, and it was only Mercers that were willing to take it on. It was explained to us from the outset the difficulties that might arise and they fully explained why the case would be difficult. But ‘there is always more than one way to skin a cat’. And Beatrice found it and won our case for us. Can’t recommend them enough. We are still over the moon!”

– Mr & Mrs P, Leicester

“Peter managed our limited budget with care, checking our accounts with forensic expertise, and advising us wisely and clearly on our choices. We won our case with costs awarded against the other party. I remain grateful for his professionalism, wisdom and intelligent care during this difficult case.”

– Mrs. JGW, Surrey

“I would thoroughly recommend Mercers – I found the advice Shella offered on contentious probate to be very constructive – and it enabled me to feel at ease. I appreciated her attention to detail; I found it extremely helpful that she followed up her advice with an email on the same day. Thank you Shella for a clear, professional and very informative service.”

– Mrs C F, Watford

Peter Hopkins (Partner), Chris Bowler (Partner), Beatrice Calderbank (Litigator) and Shella Glanfield (Associate Solicitor).

Click here to see our Trust and Estate Disputes Brochure.