The number of family disputes over wills has increased dramatically, according to research carried out by the Independent newspaper.
Its figures show that the number of actions in the High Court challenging provisions made in wills has increased by 700% over the last five years. The number of cases seeking to have entire wills declared invalid has nearly doubled over the same period.
Lawyers say there could be several reasons for the increases. The recession has reduced the value of many estates meaning that some family members do not inherit as much as they expected. They may decide to take action to make up the shortfall.
It’s likely that the changing nature of family structures is also an important factor. The rising number of remarriages and second relationships has led to more complex family arrangements. There is also a tendency for extended families to live far apart and have little personal contact. This can make them more willing to challenge each other over family assets.
The best way to reduce the risk of family disputes is to make sure your will is properly drawn up with the help of a solicitor. It may also help to explain your decisions to family members, especially if you fear your will may disappoint some people.
People who feel they have not been properly provided for in a will should also seek advice from a solicitor. Most cases can be settled out of court through mediation, which is much less expensive and far less stressful than court action.
Please contact us about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of wills and probate.