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Disputed wills: Guidance for practitioners

20 December 2019

If a will you have prepared is disputed you may be asked to disclose information about the circumstances surrounding its preparation and execution.

Law Society advice on good practice on this issue was taken into account by the Court of Appeal in Larke v Nugus (1979) 123 SJ 337 (later reported in (2000) WTLR 1033) in relation to the issue of costs in a probate action. 

This practice note explains that advice and provides supplementary information on disclosing such information and the consequences of failing to do so. This practice note also addresses the risks associated with acting in a dispute, and protecting the estate pending the resolution of the dispute.

Legal status

This practice note is the Law Society’s view of good practice in this area. It is not legal advice.

Practice notes are issued by the Law Society for the use and benefit of its members. They represent the Law Society’s view of good practice in a particular area. They are not intended to be the only standard of good practice that solicitors can follow. You are not required to follow them but doing so will make it easier to account to oversight bodies for your actions.

Practice notes are not legal advice, nor do they necessarily provide a defence to complaints of misconduct or of inadequate professional service. While care has been taken to ensure that they are accurate, up to date and useful, the Law Society will not accept any legal liability in relation to them.

For queries or comments on this practice note contact the Law Society’s Practice Advice Service.

SRA Principles

There are seven mandatory principles which apply to all those the SRA regulates and to all aspects of practice. The principles can be found in the SRA Standards and Regulations.

The principles apply to all authorised individuals (solicitors, RELs and RFLs), authorised firms and their managers and employees. They also apply to individuals and the parts of a licensed body involved in delivering the regulated services.

Professional conduct

Paragraphs 6.3 to 6.5 of the SRA Code of Conduct for Solicitors, RELs and RFLs on confidentiality and disclosure are relevant to this issue.

Terminology

Must – A specific requirement in legislation or of a principle, rule, regulation or other mandatory provision in the SRA Standards and Regulations. You must comply, unless there are specific exemptions or defences provided for in relevant legislation or the SRA’s Regulatory Arrangements.

Should – Outside of a regulatory context, good practice for most situations in the Law Society’s view. In the case of the SRA Standards and Regulations, a non-mandatory provision (such as may be set out in notes or guidance).

These may not be the only means of complying with legislative or regulatory requirements and there may be situations where the suggested route is not the best possible route to meet the needs of your client. However, if you do not follow the suggested route, you should be able to justify to oversight bodies why the alternative approach you have taken is appropriate, either for your practice, or in the particular retainer.

May – A non-exhaustive list of options for meeting your obligations or running your practice. Which option you choose is determined by the profile of the individual practice, client or retainer. You may be required to justify why this was an appropriate option to oversight bodies.

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