We are often contacted by beneficiaries who ask, 'what can I do if a solicitor makes a mistake when preparing a will and I lose out as a result? This 'How to' guide looks at how a legal claim can be brought against a solicitor who gave negligent advice to the deceased or made a mistake when preparing their will.
Can a beneficiary bring a claim against a solicitor who made a mistake when preparing a will?
As we have explained in an earlier article Can a beneficiary sue a solicitor for negligence? a beneficiary can make a negligence claim against a solicitor who made a mistake when preparing a will under which they would or should have benefitted. Claims can also be made against unqualified will writers who make a mistake.
Get specialist legal advice early
We specialise in both contentious probate disputes and professional negligence claims. We will therefore look at all available options open to you and advise you on the best way to recover compensation for your losses. There are strict court deadlines for bringing a negligence claim so getting specialist legal advice at an early stage is very important.
It is also worth bearing in mind that in addition to making a professional negligence claim you may also be able to challenge the validity of the last will or make a claim for financial provision from the estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. We are experts in advising on all types of claim, which is the benefit you get from going to specialist solicitors like us.
We are members of the Professional Negligence Lawyers Association and recommended by the independent legal directory, the Legal 500, so you can be assured that you will receive specialist legal advice to give you the best chance of achieving a positive outcome for your claim.
Obtain your free case assessment
The first step is to contact us for a free case assessment. We will then guide you on the claims you can pursue and the funding options available. We can often deal with professional negligence claims and contested probate claims on a No Win, No Fee basis.
What can I make a claim for?
When making a professional negligence claim the beneficiary who has lost out due to a solicitor’s negligence is entitled to claim for the inheritance they would have received had the mistake not been made. That is because a solicitor owes a 'duty of care' to the beneficiaries when preparing a will. If the negligence causes the beneficiary to suffer a financial loss then that gives the beneficiary the right to make a negligence claim against the solicitor. In other words the claim is based on the fact that the “disappointed” beneficiary has lost the chance to receive their inheritance due to the solicitor’s negligence.
Once a case assessment has been carried out and funding arrangements agreed then we will present the claim to the solicitor and their insurers. This involves us sending a Preliminary Notice under the Pre-Action Protocol for Professional Negligence to the solicitor’s firm to put them on notice of the claim and to ask for a complete copy of the will preparation file.
We will then be in a position to send a letter of claim and advise on putting forward settlement proposals.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
All claimants have an obligation to consider alternative dispute resolution (known as ADR) which includes making written offers to settle and inviting parties to reach a settlement out of court through mediation. Mediation is very effective at achieving a favourable settlement without the time, stress and costs of court proceedings and we have a very high success rate at mediation. We therefore encourage mediation at the earliest opportunity as a better compensation settlement can often be achieved than through the courts and without the additional time, costs and risks involved.
When a settlement cannot be reached we will prepare court proceedings. Insurance can be obtained to cover you against the risk of an adverse costs order. In the meantime we usually continue to negotiate so as to achieve an out of court settlement.
If I make a negligence claim will other beneficiaries lose their inheritance?
It is worth noting that sometimes claimants are put off bringing a solicitor's negligence claim as they believe it would take away the inheritance of other beneficiaries. However that is not the case as any professional negligence claim is usually paid by the solicitor’s insurers and therefore it would not affect the inheritance other beneficiaries are entitled to receive under the will. As such, a professional negligence claim can achieve recompense for the disappointed beneficiary and a “windfall” for the other beneficiaries.
How we can help
If you would like to know what you can do if a solicitor makes a mistake when preparing a will then call our free helpline on 0808 139 1599 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org