If there is a will

The first step is to check the terms of the will, and in particular check if it is the latest one.We need to be sure that the person who has died- the deceased- had mental capacity to make the will, and was not suffering undue influence (ie was not being pressured to make a gift to someone). To do this we can:

- E-mail solicitors who might be holding a will for the deceased, and make searches of the various wills registers

- Require the solicitors or will-writers who made the will to provide details of how it was made

- Trace witnesses or use handrwiting experts to check it is genuine

If there is no will

The first step is to check if any will has been made, and that will involve a thorough search of the deceased's papers. We may need to contact solicitors and wills registers as above. If there is no will then we need a list of the deceased living relatives and an idea of the size of the estate to establish who wil inherit under the laws of intestacy.

Next steps

The next step is to negotiate with the legal beneficiaries to see if an agreement can be reached to vary the will. This can often be agreed if there is manifest unfairness.

The final step is to make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1976 for a court order granting you a share of the estate. We can also submit a caveat preventing someone from administering the estate if it is felt that they will not do it properly.