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Any idea how much contesting an estate will cost?

(3 Posts)
BensonRiley Mon 15-Oct-12 20:48:01

... and who would pay the costs?

The background, briefly I hope, is that my partner's father died 18 months ago. He had previously lived in sheltered accommodation and decided he would prefer to live with family, so bought a house for his other son and eventually went to live with him. My partner says he always thought this was a very bad idea.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, the brother's house was squalid beyond belief, and this dear old man spent his last year living, neglected, in dreadful conditions. Every time my partner spoke to social services about his concerns, they would ring the brother to arrange a time to visit, by which time he had tidied up enough to placate them (a cheaper option, I guess, keeping him there despite the fact their father was so upset living there he wanted to go in to a home).

Since he died, it has come to light that the brother continued to use his father's bank account for a further 3 months (he had his debit card) to the tune of over £7000, and my partner reckons that for the 18 months his father lived there, his bank account went down by about £20000. The brother paid for everything on it, from his pub bill, supermarket bill, ATM cash, car tax, vet bill etc etc. He even had a standing order for £600 a month paid to the brother to live in his own house!

The brothers are no longer speaking, by the way. The brother is well on the way to being an alcoholic. My partner is extremely distressed about it, feels so guilty for not being able to stop his father ending his days in such a dreadful way, plus still feeling very raw from the bereavement.

Although he knows his father made a will, it cannot be found. It has taken him months to summon up the energy to finally contact a solicitor to begin the process of probate without one, but the point is that the house his father paid for is in his brother's name. The solicitor has said he needs to see a partner who specialises in probate disputes. He knows his father would have wanted his estate to be divided equally between the two brothers, but there is nothing left of his estate now! My partner has virtually nothing financially since his divorce some years ago, lives in rented accommodation (we have a long distance relationship), and could really do with this small inheritance (the house is only worth about £120k so we're not talking about a fortune here). He does suspect some coercion from his brother in persuading their father to buy the house in the first place, and giving him free access to his debit card.

He sees his choices as
a) forget it, but then he is denying his own sons their future inheritance;
b) fight his brother for the house, but he anticipates this would be very costly in legal fees, and he hasn't got the money.

My question is, if this went to court, presumably he would win as it was known (by his father's remaining siblings - they know nothing of this, btw) that he wanted his sons to have an equal share of his estate? Would costs be awarded against the brother out of the remaining value in the house? Can he be forced to sell it? Will he go to prison for the fraud? Much as my partner is disgusted at the way he treated their father, and upset at him continuing to spend his money after his death, he doesn't really want to see his brother in prison.

If there's anyone out there that can guide us in the right direction, I would be so grateful for some advice. Thank you.

Ginda Tue 16-Oct-12 18:15:04

Sorry to hear this awful story. You do need a contentious probate specialist, not just a general private client lawyer. Contentious probate is a specialist area and only a few firms (usually larger ones) have this capability, though sadly, some firms will say they do it but without having the real expertise.

I'm not a specialist in this area and my firm doesn't do it at all, but I know a good lawyer at a firm well known for its contentious probate practice and would be happy to pass on his details if you PM me.

BensonRiley Wed 17-Oct-12 17:59:14

Thank you for your response, Gilda. Much appreciated. I will PM you.

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