3 Oct 2016
Author: Stephen Breen
Many people think of their Will as the final say on what happens to their estate when they die – but an increasing number of inheritance disputes show this is not always the case.
More children than ever before are using the courts to challenge the contents of their parents’ wills.
A number of reasons have been cited for the rise in inheritance disputes – these include soaring house prices which have given children an incentive to ask for a bigger share. Increasingly complex family structures resulting from high levels of divorce, remarriage and unmarried families have also resulted in more complex legacies and a surge in step children battling for their share of the inheritance.
Children are also questioning the decision of many parents to leave money that they regard as their rightful inheritance to charity. With increased life expectancy, elderly parents are viewing their grown up children as able to stand on their own two feet, and choosing instead to leave their wealth to a good cause.
The number of cases that involved children disputing their parents’ estates in the High Court grew from 104 in 2014 to 116 in 2015. There were, in fact, more cases than this would suggest – but some were settled outside of court.
Challenging a Will
There are a number of technical grounds on which you can challenge a Will – for example, you might argue that it has not been properly executed or that the person making the Will was subject to undue influence.
If the Will is perfectly valid, it can be challenged under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. This allows those who were dependent on the deceased to apply to the Court for a share of their wealth. The Court will make a decision based on their needs, having regard for the needs of other potential beneficiaries and the size of the estate.
What you can do
Using a professional lawyer or solicitor to draw up your Will gives it the best possible chance of being the final say on the distribution of your estate. Speak to our Later Life Planning team about making a Will or reviewing your existing Will to ensure it is as watertight as it can be.