Solicitors are dealing with a rising number of cases in which wills or estates are contested, with a large number ending up in the High Court.
The reason for the increase of disputes over the last few years follows some of the key cultural changes seen in this country, according to law firm Banner Jones.
Extended family networks are now more and more common, which has led to an increasing number of step children claimants who have been disappointed by not being included in the will. Another key factor is that the rise in property values over the past ten years has led to a larger number of estates worth contesting.
An ageing population which sees parents living longer giving their children chance to build up their own assets in that time is also a reason. Parents therefore consider leaving their inheritance elsewhere such as to charities.
Now leading Chesterfield legal firm Banner Jones is calling for families in the grip of a dispute over a will or inheritance to take vital steps to help reach a solution and, ideally to lay down plans to avoid problems arising in the first place.
“We are seeing an increasing number of will and inheritance cases,” said Rob Stubbs, head of dispute resolution in Banner Jones Chesterfield. “It’s important for anyone affected by a will or inheritance dispute to seek legal support to help reach a solution.”
According to Rob Stubbs, unless treated carefully, inheritance and will disputes can throw families into chaos and have long-lasting impacts.
“We always give careful consideration to the family relationships as opposed to the purely commercial considerations. We always seek where possible to resolve a case by negotiation or mediation, therefore avoiding the need for expensive litigation.”
The firm’s dispute teams have wide experience of dealing with people on both sides of will and inheritance disputes – vital when it comes to understanding the complexities and personal issues that can be involved.
Rob added: “In a recent example we represented a client in a challenge to their mother’s will which they believe had been changed in unusual and suspicious circumstances. We were able to render the will invalid so that the provisions of her previous will would take effect and our client received their rightful share.”
The Inheritance (Provision of Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (IPFAD) allows a broad range of potential claimants to seek a reasonable financial provision from the estate, including spouses, cohabitees, children and people who were financially maintained by the deceased.
The number of will disputes heard in the High Court continues to increase. One of the most common types of disputes is a validity claim, where the will is invalid because it does not comply with formalities. It may have been a homemade will or a will writer may have made a mistake when drafting it.
Alternatively a will may be invalid because the testator did not have the required mental capacity or was subject to undue influence by a third party when making the will.
Even if the will is valid a person may be able to claim under the IPFAD Act 1975 if they fall into a particular category of claimant and have not been left a reasonable financial provision.
Are you affected by a dispute over an inheritance or will? Banner Jones expert legal team is available to help at www.bannerjones.co.uk