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Lack of Dementia Diagnoses Leading to Rise in Will Disputes

This is a particularly sad story regarding will writing, but one that we thought was particularly important to cover; as was recently reported by Legal Futures, the stigma of dementia is leading to a number of individuals keeping their condition hidden, which is in fact leading to a rise in the number of wills being disputed in the UK.

There are a number of conditions for individuals to fulfil in order for a will to be valid, it is noted. These include: understanding what a will is and what it is for; understanding the extent of the assets they are distributing; appreciating the claims of those who may be expecting to receive something after the individual has deceased; and not being mentally affected by any illness to the extent that it affects their mental capacity, thus affecting their judgement when it comes to how they wish to distribute their estate.

Specialist law firm Irwin Mitchell notes that they have seen a 53% increase in the number of wills disputed under the belief that the deceased lacked the mental capacity to make or alter their will accordingly. This could be linked to a recent study which found that a number of people with dementia have taken to hiding their condition due to the stigma attached to mental illnesses. By the year 2020 it is predicted that more than one million people will be diagnosed with the disease in the UK alone.

Julia Burns, a specialist solicitor at Irwin Mitchell, noted: "People are living longer than previous generations so more and more people are being affected by mental illnesses such as dementia." She concluded that "where there are capacity issues, an experienced practitioner will be able to properly advise on the course of action needed."

Do you think lack of mental capacity – whether from dementia or another illness – will continue to affect the number of disputed wills, or is the stigma behind such diseases changing?