This article has been submitted by Bowden Jones Solicitors
It is widely acknowledged that in recent years the number of individuals contesting a will has increased dramatically.
It is a topic that has enjoyed a significant amount of exposure with many high profile cases dividing public opinion on the merits of being allowed to challenge a person’s final wishes.
There is much speculation on why we are seeing a rise in inheritance disputes. However, some of the factors in relation to why we are seeing a rise include:
- An increase in the number of people getting divorced and then being involved in a remarriage. In general, a larger percentage of individuals/couples are involved in a more complicated family structure.
- Society becoming more wealthy owing to continuing house price rises, so there is more value to fight over;
- People becoming more aware of their legal rights and ability to bring claims if there is something amiss, so there is more of an incentive and appetite to litigate; and
- An increase in dementia rates meaning more people are making Wills when they may not be in the best of health, so the wills are more susceptible to challenge.
Wills can be challenged on the basis of a lack of testamentary capacity, or because the deceased was being influenced by another and did not know or approve of the contents of the will, or the will was forged.
If the Will is valid, but an aggrieved family member feels it does not make reasonable financial provision for them when it should do (or if there is no will and the statutory intestacy rules are not favourable to them) a claim can be brought under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (‘the Inheritance Act’) for greater provision from their estate.
What do the statistics tell us?
Court statistics recently issued indicate that in 2013 there were 97 will challenges (technically known as contentious probate) claims started in the High Court – and in 2014 this figure had jumped to 178.
There were 88 claims under the Inheritance Act in 2013, rising to 104 in 2014 and 116 in 2015. In 2016 there were 158 cases which shows a particularly marked increase that year.
In 2015 and 2016, the number of contentious probate cases started to drop to 164 and 77 respectfully.
Contested Wills Specialists at Bowden Jones Solicitors
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