Inheritance disputes are on the increase. A recent survey has shown that more people are now prepared to challenge a Will. Sarah Cornish, Partner in the Wills, Probate & Trusts team, and Partner and disputed Wills specialist Melanie Grose at Coodes Solicitors discuss why a properly drawn-up Will can reduce the risk of challenges to your estate in the future.
A recent survey commissioned by life insurance company Direct Line has revealed that a quarter of adults are now prepared to challenge a Will if they disagree with the division of estate. With information readily available online, people are becoming more educated on the potential to challenge a Will. An increased diversity of family types, with many choosing not to marry and others re-marrying after a divorce, means inheritance is now often more complex. This opens up the potential for more people to challenge a Will that they feel is unfair.
Here at Coodes, we are seeing a dramatic rise in the number of claims relating to inheritance disputes.
While some relatives may feel they are entitled to more than they have been left, a survey of family law specialists has found that undue influence is the most common grounds for contesting a Will. A relative could also, for example, claim that the deceased was persuaded or manipulated into writing their Will in a certain way or that they were in a vulnerable state when they created it. To claim the deceased lacked capacity, they must prove he or she was not able to make decisions, as a result of dementia, for example. In this instance, a good lawyer would contact the GP of the deceased or another qualified medical professional to verify whether or not this was the case.
Many people make a Will and then forget to review it. However, things change so having an up-to-date Will is incredibly important. With more people deciding to cohabitate and the rise in divorce rates, it is more important than ever for a Will to be updated to ensure your loved ones are looked after. A change in your circumstances could make a big difference to the proportion of your estate that you wish to leave to your partner, children or perhaps another family member or a dear friend.
Many people put off creating a Will altogether as they feel they are too young or they have verbally expressed their wishes to a loved one. Usually, life events such as having children or buying a house will prompt individuals to start looking into drafting a Will. However, anyone over the age of 18 can put a Will in place.
In the event of your death, having no Will would result in the state deciding who inherits your money and belongings under the Intestacy Rules, which could result in someone close to you not inheriting anything at all. This could also cause difficult family relationships. For example, your new spouse could inherit your whole estate, leaving your children from a previous marriage with nothing.
An experienced lawyer will help you ensure your Will reflects your wishes. This is not just limited to your wishes for your estate. You can record your preferences for your funeral arrangements, which could take pressure of your family in the future. Importantly, having a properly drawn-up Will by a professional solicitor will also ensure you have assigned guardians for your children.
An executor of a Will is tasked with carrying out the instructions left by the deceased. Anyone over the age of 18 can be an executor and many people choose members of their family such as their spouse or children. Ideally, it’s better to have more than one executor to divide up the work and also in case an executor dies before you.
It is vital to have executors you trust completely as they are responsible for making sure your wishes are met. If an executor refuses to distribute your estate as requested, the beneficiaries could risk never getting what they are entitled to. You could choose to have a solicitor or accountant as one of their executors who can handle the more complicated and financial matters, although they will charge you for their time.
Having a professionally drafted, up-to-date Will does not stop a claim being made. However, it does gives you the opportunity to counter any claims you may foresee, such as difficult family relationships and second families. In other words, it gives you the best chance or ensuring your family is not faced with the potentially devastating experience of going through an inheritance dispute over your estate.