Recent research highlights the increasing likelihood of disputes over inheritance. According to Direct Line Life Insurance, 12.6 million British adults would be prepared to dispute a Will and go to court if they disagreed with the division of their relative’s estate. On average, 22% of UK residents would contest a loved one’s Will, 13% would be willing to contest their parent’s Will, and 11% would contest their partner’s Will*.
Residents in Southampton are the most likely to contest a loved one’s Will with 31% of residents stating that they would do so. This is closely followed by London and Norwich where 29% would be willing to contest a Will. On the other hand, only 11% of residents in Sheffield would contest their loved one’s Will if they did not agree with how the estate was to be distributed.
Last year, we reported how a record number of inheritance disputes were reaching the High Court under the Inheritance Act, with 116 cases bought to the court in 2015, in comparison to just 15 in 2005. This new research from Direct Line Life Insurance suggests that the number of inheritance disputes will continue to rise as a large proportion of UK adults are prepared to contest a Will.
Kings Court Trust’s 2018 report ‘Changing family dynamics: The Will writing industry in 2018’ revealed that one in twenty people (5%) have been in a dispute with someone about the contents of a Will. At Kings Court Trust all we do is take care of estate administration on behalf of bereaved families, and year on year we continue to see a rise in the number of families in the midst of a dispute.
What can be done to reduce disputes over inheritance?
First and foremost, it’s important for everyone to have a valid Will which outlines their wishes. If someone dies without a Will, the estate would be distributed following the rules of intestacy and those closest to the deceased may not necessarily inherit. For example, a life-long friend, caregiver or step-child would lose out under intestacy and the nearest, entitled, blood relative may be a distant cousin.
In today’s society, it is not always enough to just have a Will as it could be contested under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. However, there are precautions that can be taken to reduce the risk of disputes. Discussing the contents of the Will and explaining how the estate will be distributed to loved ones can take away the element of surprise and help relatives to understand the wishes in the Will.
Additionally, many people would argue that some of the responsibility also lies with the Will writer. Peter Wood of InHouse Wills & Probate said:
The big challenge is the idea that everybody needs a Will, as long as you have a Will, then that’s it. But people may have done it wrong, or a better Will would be more suited to the family. It is scary how many Will writers and solicitors do simplistic Wills without thinking through the implications.
Will writers should ensure that each individual’s family dynamics are taken into account. A Will that has considered the make-up of the family and all eventualities is less likely to be contested and the estate is more likely to be protected.
Matt Walkden of MW Legal Services explained:
It is important that you really understand the family dynamic when writing a Will and explain this to the person who is having the Will produced so that they correctly understand what the implications of all their options are. If this is explained to the beneficiaries and explain those decisions prior to death, it is less likely to result in conflict. I say that they should try and involve the children when writing their Wills, if they find out afterwards about an uneven split, it can come as a shock. If you encourage the parents to share what they are doing then you avoid many problems.
Taking these necessary steps to ensure the right Will is in place and the family are aware of how the estate will be distributed, should reduce the risk of inheritance disputes.
Kings Court Trust are experts in estate administration; the process of dealing with a loved one’s legal and tax affairs after they’ve passed away. When it comes to estate administration, we can handle everything. Every action, decision and service we offer goes some way to achieving our purpose - helping families to move on. If you have any questions about estate administration, call our experienced Client Services Team on 0300 303 9000 or click here to get in touch.
* These figures are an average of residents from the following cities: London, Southampton, Norwich, Nottingham, Cardiff, Manchester, Liverpool, Bristol, Leeds, Glasgow, Newcastle, Birmingham, Plymouth, Brighton, Edinburgh, Belfast and Sheffield.