Current published statistics show that claims issued in the High Court in respect of contested Will disputes are at a record high.
I thought a will was unchallengeable
Let me start by saying that the above statement is in most cases correct. If a will is drafted correctly by a solicitor, the formalities are completed and the person making the will is of sound mind, then in most cases a Will is very difficult to challenge. My first piece of advice therefore is if your do not have a Will or it needs updating then seek advice from a reputable solicitor and it is likely that that Will cannot be challenged. My colleagues here at Biscoes can help with this.
Why then are challenges to Wills and disputes over inheritance increasing and at an all-time high
There are many factors as to why Will disputes are on the increase, these can be summarised as follows:-
- It is estimated that up to 50% of the adult population do not have a Will at all. This means that if someone dies without a Will the Estate will be distributed in accordance with the Rules of Intestacy and this can lead to disputes.
- The change in families and their diversity, often there are second marriages and children from both marriages believe they should inherit and when this does not happen disputes arise.
- Increased life expectancy often means that a Will is either old and outdated and does not consider a change on circumstances or people are making Wills when they get much older and issues of capacity, i.e. whether someone had the mental capacity to make a Will arises.
- Increase in property prices will often mean that a deceased estate is worth much more than it used to be which means there is more money to argue about and this increases the risk of disputes.
The Reasons for disputing a Will.
There are many reasons why a beneficiary who is disappointed by a Will or lack of one might want to challenge a Will.
This might just be because they have been left out or have not received as much from the estate as they thought they should in those cases, depending on circumstances, a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 can be made
Alternatively, there may be arguments that the deceased did not have capacity to make the Will, may not have understood the nature of the Will and their assets or may have been unduly influenced.
There may be other reasons to such as promises that may have been made by the deceased to someone that they might inherit and upon reliance of those promises the disappointed beneficiary may be able to rely in certain circumstances on those promises.
What should you do then if you find yourself in this situation?
Firstly, you should act quickly as in some cases you only have a limited amount of time to claim or protect your position. You should seek advice from a specialist solicitor, preferably one with an ACTAPS qualification to explore your case and your options.