Probate Valuations for Inheritance Disputes: How an Accurate Valuation Can Help Resolve Conflicts

Pete Liggins
July 10, 2023
Otherwise known as Contentious Probate, Dawsons can help you resolve this problem amicably.

When someone passes away, a probate valuation requires identification of all the deceased’s assets and all their liabilities to determine the total value of their estate. These assets will include property, investments and personal possessions, and the liabilities refer to debts ranging from loans, mortgages, credit cards and utility bills.

An inheritance dispute arises when beneficiaries of a Will and/or the deceased’s family members disagree about how an estate should be divided. Other parties that can lodge a dispute include an individual or organisation that was promised an inheritance, or was disinherited without their knowledge, as well as a third party who is affected by the present or past Will. This sort of dispute is becoming increasingly common in the UK due to several social factors including longer life expectancies, cohabiting, blended families, and wider property ownership. 

There are several reasonings that can be used to raise a dispute against an inheritance:

  • Reduced mental capacity: if it is believed that the deceased was not of sound mind when compiling their Will.
  • Dependants: If someone who was financially dependent on the deceased has been excluded from the inheritance, this can include unmarried partners and children.
  • Understanding: If it is believed that the deceased did not fully understand or approve the contents of a Will.
  • Intentions: When the deceased made intentions known before death but did not update the required documentation. 
  • Forgery and Fraud: If the Will is believed to be fake or altered unlawfully. 
  • Administrative issues: If there has been a misunderstanding or failing to carry out the deceased wishes according to their Will.
  • Undue influence: If it is believed the deceased was coerced into determining beneficiaries or their inheritance.  
  • No Will or invalid Will: Will result in the estate being distributed according to the rules of intestacy, if it is believed that this does not reflect the deceased wishes, a dispute can be actioned. 

There are several ways accurate valuations can assist with resolving disputes in an estate. For example, if an estate is being divided equally among three children, but the eldest child was promised the deceased’s wedding ring, this could seem unfair to the younger beneficiaries. In this instance, having the correct valuation for the ring will ensure that the estate is distributed accurately while taking into account this non-monetary item. 

Another example would be where entire household contents have been left to several beneficiaries to distribute amongst themselves, the executor can use the valuations to determine how much each beneficiary is entitled to. Should one beneficiary request a painting that has fond memories, and a reasonable value, and another request the silver cutlery service, these valuations can be compared to determine each beneficiary’s percentage share. 

Executors have a legal obligation to accurately report the value of an estate, and if they knowingly mislead the HMRC, there is a risk of criminal proceedings for fraud being brought against them, even if they accidentally or unknowingly make errors, they could still face penalties. Ensuring that anything of value has been assessed by the correct respective professionals will assist in reducing delays with the processing of an estate, as well as offering transparency for all beneficiaries involved. 

Are you the executor of an estate with valuable art, antiques, ceramics, silver, or collectables?

The expert team of Valuers at Dawsons are here to help.

Please get in touch today, we would be delighted to hear from you.

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