Martin Oliver, Partner in our Contentious Probate team breaks down the costs of contesting a will and explains the process he follows with clients.
Initial client meeting
At the first meeting, I usually offer a free 30 minute conversation with you to find out more about your case and how complex it is so I can estimate how long it could potentially take. This meeting allows me to gain a deeper understanding of anything else we will need to obtain for the case such as medical notes before being in a position to advise you on what to do going forward - these types of costs can range from £500 to £1000 +VAT.
Assessing your case and options
Once this information has been obtained, I will assess the prospect of success and if it is greater than 60% I will consider whether I can act on a conditional fee agreement, also known as No Win, No Fee. This means that you will not pay for our charges on an ongoing basis. However, if you are successful with your case, you will be responsible for our fees and an uplift on top of this. We will seek to recover as much from the opponent as possible.
If you are not successful, you will not have to pay a fee for Wright Hassall's time.
Overall, the average fees if your claim goes to final hearing will be in the region of £100,000 to £150,000 +VAT. That being said, around only 3% of cases go to that stage, the vast majority of matters either settle before proceedings are issued (around 40% to 50%) or when exchanging witness statements or disclosure.
Mediation should always be considered at the beginning of your claim. Around 70% to 80% of cases settle at mediation and we would advise to consider this at the first opportunity.
What happens if I lose my case?
Solicitors should give your a prospect of success at the beginning of your case. Although a 60% prospect of success (or higher) is deemed a good case, there are no guarantees in litigation - a different judge can see a case differently on the day so it is worth bearing this in mind!
If you are unsuccessful, it is normally the position that the losing party pays the winning parties costs.
After The Event Insurance
What I usually advise at an early stage is to take out After the Event Insurance. This means that if you go all the way to final hearing, and are being represented on a No Win, No Fee basis, if you were to lose then the After the Event Insurance would pay the other side's costs.
What happens if I'm not offered a No Win, No Fee Agreement?
If the prospect of successful is 50% or less and I was unable to act on a No Win, No Fee basis, it would mean I would act for you on a private fee paying basis that is ongoing as we go through the matter. As mentioned above, the cost of this can range from £100,000 to £150,000 +VAT if your claim goes all the way to a final hearing.
The 'normal rules' still apply that if you win your case, you're entitled to your reasonable costs from your opponent. If you lose, you may end up paying your own costs together with your opponents.
Taking the above into account, it is important to note that right at the beginning when your meet with your solicitor you should ask "how much will this cost?". Furthermore, you should discuss what cost options are available to protect you as the client as much as possible. Your solicitor should be clear and provide this in black and white so you can review this before making a final decision.
Click here to find out more about our Contentious Probate team.
The information provided in this video is provided for general information purposes only, and does not provide definitive advice. It does not amount to legal or other professional advice and so you should not rely on any information contained here as if it were such advice.
Wright Hassall does not accept any responsibility for any loss which may arise from reliance on any information published here. Definitive advice can only be given with full knowledge of all relevant facts. If you need such advice please contact a member of our professional staff.
The information published across our Knowledge Base is correct at the time of going to press.