ARTICLE
17 April 2024

Rise In Inheritance Disputes

EL
Ellisons Legal

Contributor

Ellisons Legal
Inheritance disputes are on the rise, with just under 400 probate cases reaching the Courts in the first 9 months of 2023, but this does not even scratch the surface.
UK Family and Matrimonial
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Inheritance disputes are on the rise, with just under 400 probate cases reaching the Courts in the first 9 months of 2023, but this does not even scratch the surface. Most inheritance disputes are settled outside of the Courts, and it is estimated that there may be up to 10,000 inheritance disputes each year.

Broadly speaking, wills can be challenged on a variety of grounds, including but not limited to the testator lacking capacity or want of knowledge and approval, undue influence, fraud, or lack of due execution. In addition, certain groups of individuals who were not provided for under a will may be able to bring a claim for reasonable financial provision.

The increase in inheritance disputes is due to many factors including DIY wills, increased life expectancy, the cost-of-living crisis and complex family structures.

Wills that are not prepared by qualified will writers may give rise to issues which prevent a testator's wishes from being fulfilled upon their death. For example, a DIY will may not be executed and witnessed correctly, and the Courts may therefore deem the will invalid. DIY wills may be prepared for many reasons, such as the availability of template wills from online sellers at minimal cost. However, it is critical that a will is prepared correctly in order to minimise the risk of such claims.

Increased life expectancy as well as the prevalence in conditions which have an enduring impact on a testator's capacity, such as dementia, may leave vulnerable individuals open to exploitation and undue influence to change their wills. Further, in order to create a valid will, a testator must be able to understand the nature and effects of making a will, the extent of their estate, to recognise who would expect to benefit from their estate, and to not be suffering from any delusions of the mind. If a testator prepared a will at a time when they did not have the required mental capacity to do so, the Courts may determine the will to be invalid.

Further, the cost-of-living crisis and increasing value of assets such as property, means that there is a lot more at stake for individuals intending to challenge a will. The increased cost of living may also result in individuals who were being maintained by the deceased, such as their partner or children, having to consider a claim for additional financial provision from the estate in certain circumstances.

Increasingly complex family structures and blended families may give rise to a range of inheritance issues, such as disinherited stepchildren, and disputes between a spouse and children from other marriages. Further, in the circumstances where an individual dies intestate or with a will that was not updated, a cohabiting partner who was not married to or in a civil partnership with the deceased testator may find themselves without any financial provision.

Whilst it is not possible to exclude the possibility of claims completely, seeking assistance from qualified professionals when preparing and/or amending your will may limit the risk of such claims arising.

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.

ARTICLE
17 April 2024

Rise In Inheritance Disputes

UK Family and Matrimonial

Contributor

Ellisons Legal
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