ARTICLE
11 April 2024

Reviewing Wills In Light Of Increasing Challenges

EL
Ellisons Legal

Contributor

Ellisons Legal
Recent estimates from within the industry have shown that as many as 10,000 people in England and Wales are challenging Wills every year.
UK Family and Matrimonial
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Recent estimates from within the industry have shown that as many as 10,000 people in England and Wales are challenging Wills every year.

According to a recent article in the Guardian newspaper, contentious probate lawyers have attributed this to various factors, including (1) the demise of more wealthy "baby boomers", (2) an increase in more "complex" families, where stepchildren are disinherited for example, (3) increased challenges due to people making Wills during the Covid pandemic (see my previous blog on the welcome demise of the video-witnessing of Wills pandemic procedure), (4) a cost of living crisis generating an increased desperation for money from inheritance, and (5) a rise in dementia meaning that more people are contending that a family member's Will was not validly made.

Though there is clearly no failsafe way of preventing challenge to a Will, such challenge could be mitigated by a testator regularly reviewing their personal circumstances, particularly in the event of a big change in their life, such as a marriage or a divorce, a family rift, or a change in the ownership of their property.

Couples with non-mutual children, who are in second marriages or civil partnerships for example, can make more specialist Wills including trusts which can provide for both surviving spouse and children and stepchildren.

In addition, where children or other close family members or dependents are to be excluded due to a relationship breakdown, it can be a good idea to include with your Will a side letter, explaining your reasoning for excluding a specific person from your Will.

It is also prudent and often essential to obtain a medical opinion relating to the mental capacity of a person making a Will, when that person is living with dementia or another similar disease affecting the brain, and taking such steps can mitigate against a Will being challenged on the basis that that person had a cognitive impairment that prevented them from understanding their Will.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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