Tony Imossi, of Law Society partner ABI, explains the benefit of using a professional investigator when dealing with a contentious will or trust


Professional investigators (PIs) can play a crucial role in assisting solicitors with contentious wills or trusts.

PIs are adept at gathering evidence, conducting surveillance, and uncovering information that can be instrumental in resolving disputes related to wills and trusts. However, it is essential for legal professionals to be mindful of potential pitfalls when engaging PIs who are not accredited members of the Association of British Investigators (ABI).

One of the primary functions of a PI is to gather evidence that can substantiate or refute claims regarding the validity of a will, or the conduct of trustees or beneficiaries. This evidence may include locating and interviewing relevant witnesses, conducting surveillance, and uncovering documentation.

PIs can also assist in locating missing heirs or beneficiaries, tracing assets, and identifying potential instances of fraud or undue influence in a will or trust. Their expertise in conducting thorough and discreet inquiries can provide valuable support to legal professionals, as they seek to establish the facts and build a robust case on behalf of their clients.

Here are two example case scenarios where PIs could assist solicitors in contentious matters involving wills and trusts:

Scenario 1: Suspected undue influence in the creation of a will

A member of the Law Society is representing a client who believes that their late relative was unduly influenced in the creation of their will by a caregiver.

The client suspects that the caregiver took advantage of the relative’s vulnerable state to manipulate the contents of the will in their favour.

The legal practitioner engages a PI to gather evidence to support the claim of undue influence. The PI conducts discreet enquiries to identify and interview individuals who had frequent contact with the deceased relative, including healthcare providers, neighbours, and other acquaintances. Through these interviews, the investigator uncovers statements and observations that suggest a pattern of undue influence exerted by the caregiver.

As a result of the PI’s findings, the legal practitioner can build a compelling case demonstrating the undue influence exerted on the deceased relative.

The evidence gathered by the investigator supports the client’s challenge to the validity of the will, ultimately leading to a successful resolution of the dispute.

Scenario 2: Locating missing assets in a trust dispute

A solicitor is representing a beneficiary who suspects that the trustees of a family trust have mismanaged or concealed assets, depriving the beneficiary of their rightful inheritance. The legal practitioner engages a PI to locate and trace the assets held within the trust, and gather evidence of potential misconduct by the trustees.

The PI conducts a comprehensive asset search, utilising public records, financial databases, and other investigative techniques to identify the trust’s assets, including property, financial accounts, shares, and other holdings. Additionally, the investigator uncovers evidence suggesting irregularities in the trustees’ financial transactions and behaviours, such as unexplained acquisitions and investments.

Based on the findings provided by the PI, the legal practitioner is able to present a compelling case demonstrating the mismanagement and potential malfeasance by the trustees.

The evidence gathered by the investigator supports the beneficiary’s claim and facilitates negotiations for a fair distribution of the trust assets, ultimately resulting in a favourable outcome for the beneficiary.


In both example scenarios, the involvement of a skilled and accredited PI proved instrumental in providing the legal practitioners with the evidence and information necessary to effectively represent their clients.

This highlights how PIs can be valuable allies to solicitors in contentious wills and trusts matters. However, it is imperative for legal professionals to exercise prudence and diligence in selecting accredited PIs to ensure the integrity and legality of the investigative process.

By working with accredited members of ABI, legal practitioners can benefit from the expertise and professionalism of PIs while mitigating the potential pitfalls associated with engaging unaccredited professionals. Through the working with partnership, members of the Law Society can leverage the skills of PIs to navigate complex contentious matters involving wills and trusts, ultimately serving the best interests of their clients, and upholding the principles of justice and ethical practice within the legal profession.

Find out more about ABI

The ABI is the UK’s leading authority and thought leader on all matters relating to the investigation industry, and is a working with partner of the Law Society.