Disputes regarding wills and the estates of those who have passed away are on the increase. In fact, according to a recent report, the number of claims reaching the High Court has risen by a staggering 700%.
There are a number of reasons why more people are disputing wills and claiming against estates. Firstly, more people own their own homes today than a few decades ago, while the growth – until recently at least – in the value of properties and investments has led to an increase in the value of the average estate, meaning there is more money to argue over.
Additionally, family structures have become more complex. For example, second (and sometimes third and fourth) marriages have led to an increase in step-families, making it even more difficult to strike a balance between the various family members which everyone considers to be ‘fair’.
Even in the traditional family, there appears to be an increase in the number of parents falling out with at least one of their ‘2.4 children’ and excluding them from their will, as well as an increasing number of children unwilling to accept the provisions made in their parents’ wills without a fight.
Disputes about the validity of a will are more likely to arise in the case of homemade wills, drawn up without any involvement from an experienced solicitor, making it more difficult to prove that the deceased knew, understood and approved of the content of the will – and therefore easier to dispute.
In a recent case where the capacity of the deceased to make their will was called into question, the judge preferred the evidence of the experienced solicitor who had met the deceased and prepared the will, over that of a highly qualified medical practitioner who had never met the deceased. This demonstrates the value of having a will prepared by an experienced professional.
Professional input from a solicitor at the time of making a will – and the evidence that this professional can give in any post-death dispute – can be vital in avoiding costly court proceedings, as well as helping to ensure that the wishes of the person making the will are upheld.
Anyone wishing to exclude someone from their will who might otherwise expect to benefit should first seek professional advice, as the money spent on obtaining that advice can be repaid many times over in the longer term.
At Palmers Solicitors, we are highly experienced in advising clients on all areas of law relating to wills and estates. To find out how we can help you, please contact us on 01268 240000