Many more families are going to court over the contents of a will, Law Society say.
Chairman of the Law Society’s committee on wills, Ian Bond, said his law firm saw a 50% increase in the number of contested wills last year compared with 2018.
Bond added that people often underestimate how difficult it is to overturn a will.
In the UK, unlike in France, people have the right to leave their money to whomever they want. The courts tend to take the view that if a person has taken the trouble to write a will, it should be upheld as long as they were of sound mind when they wrote it and there was no undue influence.
Under the 1975 Inheritance Act, spouses, children, people who cohabited with the deceased and any dependants can contest a will. However, they must prove both that the deceased did not been make “reasonable provision” for them and that they are in genuine financial need.
Last week, the High Court dismissed a claim by a woman who wanted her late father’s wife to give her £75,000 from his estate.
Marketing manager, Carly Shapton, 32, lost her case against her stepmother because she could not prove financial need with the judge ruling that Shapton had an “affluent” lifestyle.
Challenging a will can take up to two years in court and run up substantial legal fees. There is also an emotional cost as the dispute is often between family members with long running grudges.
A will writer may try and pre-empt a challenge by inserting a clause stating anyone who challenges the will cannot inherit but this can lead to claims of undue influence and doubts over the will’s legitimacy.
A will is a powerful document and challenging a will takes time and money. A solicitor-written will is harder to challenge than a DIY or online will as solicitors keep notes on file and are more likely to be able to prove the authenticity of the will.