Disputes over wills – what, why and tips to avoid

The Independent reported earlier this week that the number of disputes over wills that reach the High Court had markedly increased due to evolving relationship and economic pressures. The Independent quote a rise of 700% in these types of claims and that challenges relating to the validity of wills has almost gone up by 50%.

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The Independent reported earlier this week that the number of disputes over wills that reach the High Court had markedly increased due to evolving relationship and economic pressures. The Independent quote a rise of 700% in these types of claims and that challenges relating to the validity of wills has almost gone up by 50%.

We are certainly seeing an increase in these types of claims. The number of claims being brought under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 are becoming much more common and enquiries as to how to make such a claim are on the rise.

Fractions between parents, children and grandparents appear to be ever present but the difference now compared to 5 years ago, is that more individuals seem to be willing to go to Court to fight for what they feel they are entitled to, be it legally entitled, or simply out of a matter of what the person feels they are owed.

As The Independent rightly points out, this may be due to beneficiaries being unhappy with the eventual sum received, perhaps due to the recession and a drop in asset values, which spurs them in to making a claim for a portion of the other assets available.

Divorce related or just societal issues ?

However, this could also be due to the increase in divorce and separation, leading to sour grapes or children who have not been adequately provided for. Many divorcing couples do not realise that remarriage revokes a will and they do not think it necessary to prepare new wills, providing for the children from the first marriage. When the new spouse inherits the whole estate, arguments are often inescapable.

On occasion litigation can be avoided by way of negotiations between the parties which results in the main beneficiary making provision for the lesser entitled parties, but this is hugely dependant upon the quality of the relationship. Where there is no amicable relationship, there is a general attitude of ‘I’ll see you in court’, which in turn inevitably leads to escalating legal fees.

Exclude and explain why

A valuable factor that must be taken into account is therefore to make adequate provision for all those you wish to inherit and if certain individuals are excluded from the will, specific exclusion clauses should be inserted to avoid any uncertainty. This is why it is advisable to go to a Solicitor to draft your will properly, given the expense of any potential litigation costs that may arise over badly drafted or home made wills. Where a Solicitor witnesses the execution of a will, the argument as to the maker’s capacity is also potentially greatly reduced.

A lesson to be learnt from the figures put forward in the Independent’s article is to ensure that your will is properly drafted and executed and for Solicitors, a full file and attendance notes must be kept.

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