Contentious Probate hero

Dealing with Contentious Probate in 2024 [EXPLAINER]

Last updated:

March 07, 2024

Verified by Lawhive solicitors


Contentious probate describes when you have a dispute about how a person’s belongings are managed after their death.

What is Contentious Probate?

Contentious probate describes when you have a dispute about how a person’s belongings are managed after their death. Will disputes (which means challenging someone’s Will) fall under contentious probate. Contentious probate disputes usually occur when you feel like you have been unfairly left out of a Will or haven’t received what you are entitled to in the Will.

Types of contentious probate disputes include:

  • A disagreement on how the Will has been interpreted
  • A disagreement over whether a Will is valid. This is often about you arguing that the deceased wasn’t able to understand what their Will meant or that they were influenced to write their Will in a certain way. This can also be about fraud, forgery or there not being correct signatures or two witnesses to the Will.
  • A disagreement about incorrect execution of the Will. This happens when the executor of the will does not handle the deceased person’s belongings in the way it was stated in the Will.

People that can bring a contentious probate dispute:

  • The spouse or civil partner of the deceased
  • Child of the deceased
  • Stepchild of the deceased
  • Dependant of the deceased
  • Someone who lived in the same home as the deceased as if they were a married couple or civil partners

Contentious probate disputes can be an emotional process and often involve expensive assets. You should seek a solicitor’s advice so that your contentious probate dispute can be handled by skilled professionals.

Do I need a solicitor?

It is recommended that you seek legal advice when looking to resolve (or defend) a contentious probate dispute. See below for details.

DIY Score:


/ 5

You'll likely need a solicitor for a contentious probate




A few weeks

Mediation is a formal meeting where you and the other side discuss the issues involved. An independent third party will try to help you agree and come to a solution. If you reach an agreement during mediation, it will be written down in a settlement agreement. Mediation helps resolve contentious probate disputes faster and at a lower cost. You should hire a contentious probate solicitor to represent you and help talk you through mediation.

Going to Court

£300 - £10000
6 months to 1 year

If your dispute cannot be resolved through mediation, you can take your issue to court which will make it a civil case. You will need to hire a solicitor to represent you and make the relevant court applications. This is the most expensive solution to a contentious probate dispute but is the most common and reliable option.

What steps are involved?

Step 1

Seek a Solicitors Advice

You should seek legal advice from a solicitor immediately. A solicitor will let you know if you have a valid claim and help you understand what you need to do. It is important to show your solicitor any evidence that might help your case.

Step 2

Initial Letter

Your solicitor will write a formal letter to the other side explaining your claim. The other side will have the opportunity to respond to your letter. If the other side accepts your claim (for example if they agree that the Will is invalid), then your solicitor will submit this information to the Probate Registry. This will make sure that the estate will not be distributed. If the other side responds to the letter telling you that they do not agree to your claim, you will have to decide how you want to resolve the dispute.

Step 3


You can choose to resolve your contentious probate dispute through mediation. If you and the other side have come to an agreement during mediation, this will be noted down in a settlement agreement. Your solicitor might then follow up by making an application to the court to confirm the position that you and the other side have agreed on.

Step 4

Going to Court

Going to court will be the only option if you and the other side cannot agree on how to solve your contentious probate dispute. Your solicitor will make an application to the court and help you build your case. Going to court can be a lengthy and expensive process. There might be multiple trials you have to attend depending on the complexity of the case and the amount of push back from the other side. The Court will make a decision based on the evidence you provide and the validity of the Will.

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Evidence and documentation


  • Will
  • Explanatory Statement to the Will


  • Proof of Identity (like a birth certificate or driver's licence)
  • Marriage Certificate


  • Resolving a contentious probate dispute at the initial letter stage is the cheapest option, which ranges around £149 to £500.
  • Mediation costs are generally around £250.
  • Going to court is the most expensive option, costs vary on a case by case basis. You can speak with a solicitor through Lawhive to receive a quote.

Factors that effect cost

  • Size of the estate.
  • Whether estate includes international assets, trusts or rural property.
  • Level of cooperation from other people involved.
  • Whether you choose to go to court or not.


  • Simple contentious probate disputes can be resolved in less than 3 months.
  • Contentious probate disputes about large or complex estates can take between 6 months to a year to resolve.

Factors that effect time

  • Whether the estate includes international assets, trusts or rural property.
  • Availability of evidence.
  • Whether you choose to go to court or not.
  • Level of cooperation from the people involved.
  • Size of the estate.


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Information about contentious probate

Things you'll need to start your case

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