The first thing to remember is that many of these cases do not go to Court. The solicitor acting for each party will co-operative as far as possible to ensure that matters are dealt with promptly, and a settlement is often reached to avoid unnecessary legal costs. Employing the services of an experienced solicitor in this area can help a great deal in reaching an early resolution.
There are a number of funding options for contesting a Will, as set out on this page.
No Win, No Fee
You’ve probably heard of ‘no win, no fee’ arrangements before. With this type of agreement, you don’t pay any solicitors’ fees up front. You’ll sign an agreement known as a Conditional Fee Agreement or Damages Based Agreement that states, if you lose your case, you won’t be responsible for our legal costs. If you win your case, the other side will pay for some of our legal costs (as ordered by the Court). Often the losing party won’t cover all of these, so the rest are taken from the money you are awarded by the Court (‘damages’). However, the amount your solicitor can take will be capped by a percentage that they agree with you in advance.
There are other fees to pay, such as Court fees and the fee for expert reports if needed. These can be covered by taking out an ‘After the Event Insurance’ policy.
Solicitors cannot take every case on a No Win, No Fee agreement. Understandably, they need to be reasonably confident that you are going to win – otherwise they get paid nothing! Your solicitor will therefore need to assess the merits of your claim and let you know whether this type of agreement is possible. Sometimes, they may need to do investigative work before it is possible to make an assessment. They may ask you to contribute towards the cost of this work. As always, there is no obligation to proceed.
Whilst it is unlikely that your solicitor could handle an entire claim on a fixed fee basis, they can certainly provide fixed fees for parts of the work. For example, if they need to write to the other party to obtain further information about a Will, they should be able to provide you with a fixed fee quote for the cost of doing this.
Your solicitor can of course work for you on the basis of an hourly rate. Every time they work on your file, they will accurately record the amount of time they spend completing a task for you. With an hourly rate, you only pay for the time spent working on your case.
They can usually provide an estimate of the amount of time each stage of the case will take.
Legal aid is available in a very small number of cases for contesting a Will.
Legal Expenses Insurance
Many people are surprised to discover that an existing insurance policy they hold has ‘legal expenses insurance’ included. This might be a car or home insurance policy, or an ‘add-on’ to your bank account or credit card. If you have this type of insurance, it may fund the legal cost of making a claim.