In the area of legacy disputes (or contentious probate), we regularly deal with situations where a charity is a beneficiary of a will but the disappointed relatives take the view that the charity has received a "windfall" and should surrender part or all of its interest. The family tend not to appreciate that the charity trustees are simply not permitted to surrender an interest unless it is in genuine compromise of litigation or pursuant to the principles of ex gratia payments as authorised by section 106 of the Charities Act 2011.

We also deal with scenarios where a charity finds itself to be beneficiary of an estate that may have been badly administered or where simply no steps have been taken to administer at all. Our specialist trust and estate disputes team can assist in possibly replacing executors or trustees or in bringing claims for breach of trust. 

We advise on

  • Defending challenges to wills
  • Defending claims brought pursuant to the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975
  • Bringing applications to remove unsuitable executors or trustees, for an account of an estate or claims involving breach of trust
  • Claims involving the rectification of a will (usually where a mistake has been made in the drafting) or the construction of a will (where there is some dispute concerning the wording or meaning of wording in a will)
  • Actions to recoup losses to an estate occasioned by negligent drafting of a will or maladministration of an estate or trust
  • Defending the position of a charity beneficiary in the context of a claim to the Court of Protection for a statutory will.

We have substantial experience in providing practical and cost-effective advice to charities in dispute. We are committed to mediation and alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and look to resolve disputes in a mutually acceptable way, thereby preventing the unnecessary escalation of costs and managing the possibility of adverse publicity.

Where appropriate we would be happy to discuss alternative funding solutions.

Our team and approach

  • We will carry out a full risk assessment for your matter and advise you where the risks lie and how best to deal with them. As the matter progresses the risk assessment will be constantly monitored and updated.
  • We will provide regular costs updates and estimates of future costs which will in turn depend on the direction the matter is taking.
  • We will constantly monitor the costs-benefit position, ie are the likely costs to be incurred worth the benefit to be obtained, bearing in mind the risks in the matter and the inherent risk of litigation
  • We will take a holistic approach and can advise on a range of different matters that might arise such as governance, regulatory and property issues.
  • Our advice will be tailored to your needs. It could range from a one-off consultation to full support throughout a lengthy dispute
  • We are able to offer a tailor-made package of products to assist you in litigation funding, including protecting against having to pay your opponent's costs should you be unsuccessful. Please see our charging information below for more details.

Charity Law Association

The Charity Law Association currently has over 900 members including many of the country's largest charities and leading charity lawyers. Members or their representatives are able to attend quarterly meetings at which charity law and related issues are discussed. All members of the team are members of the Charity Law Association.

Charges are usually based on hourly rates plus administrative charges and disbursements but we are flexible with regard to charging rates and will discuss with you budgets for work on a particular matter, or, where it is not entirely clear how things will develop, for the initial stages or a particular stage of a matter.  We will always provide you with an initial estimate of your likely legal costs and will update this as your requirements or the circumstances of the work change.

In circumstances where we can more or less either anticipate the work to be done or prescribe the work, we can act on a fixed or capped fee basis.

We would be pleased to discuss your requirements free of charge and tailor a costs proposal accordingly.

It is fundamental to our policy on allocating work that one of the factors we will consider is the likely cost outcome of using particular solicitors for particular pieces of work.  Whilst almost invariably a partner will be able to carry out work more quickly than a less experienced solicitor, a less experienced solicitor under appropriate supervision may be able to produce a more cost effective result.  Partner input is more likely to be appropriate and cost-effective in more complex or more specialised matters.