The Rise of Contested Wills

Libby Purves’ article in the Times confirmed the huge rise in the number of individuals contesting a Will.

In an environment where house prices are rising, people are living longer and there is a growing sense of entitlement among dissatisfied family members there has been a vast increase in contested Wills, even over low value estates.

To protect your estate from such challenges it is ever more important to create a professionally drafted watertight Will.

A significant reason for the increase in claims is due to the Inheritance Provision for Family and Dependants Act 1975 (IPFDA). The IPFDA allows people to contest a Will where they were financially dependant upon the testator at the date of death but were not left as much as they needed. Or where they did not inherit at all because, for example,  the deceased died without a Will or where they were left out of the Will altogether.

The IPFDA allows the court to vary the distribution of the estate on a successful claim. An example of such a variation is in favour of a spouse, where the Court can make a ‘reasonable financial provision’ as would be reasonable in all the circumstance for the partner to receive, regardless of whether such a provision is required for their maintenance. Anyone else that makes a claim is entitled to such financial provision as would be reasonable in the circumstances for their maintenance.

Our head of Contested Probate and Wills, Jonathan Shipton believes that “There has been a significant increase in claims against estates because the courts discretion is so wide and those who fall into the class of potential claimants is so large, more and more of those who feel they have an entitlement consider making claims to the inevitable diminution of the value of the estate of those the testator intended to benefit”.

The rise can also be attributed to the recent Supreme Court case of Ilott v Mitson which provided that a child can still challenge a parent’s will even where the parent has deliberately chosen not to include the child. This has also resulted in Charities being forced in to litigation to defend their legacies.

The reality is that families are becoming more complex with divorce and remarriages on the rise. This has led to a long list of people, such as step-children, who expect to be provided for in Wills. This, along with longer life expectancy and rising house prices makes the small and ordinary estates worth fighting over for potential claimants.

So, what can you do to minimise the risk of a claim being made on your estate?

Although not legally binding, leaving a letter of wishes with your Will outlining the reasons for your decision and why certain people are not inheriting can be persuasive if the Will becomes contested in the future.

Our highly experienced Private client experts at Goughs know the formalities surrounding the execution of a Will, they understand the process, and know how best to phrase your wishes.

Our Private Client experts will be happy to explain what is required and help you prepare Wills to protect your estate from potential claims of this nature.

Libby Purves’ article in the Times confirmed the huge rise in the number of individuals contesting a Will.

In an environment where house prices are rising, people are living longer and there is a growing sense of entitlement among dissatisfied family members there has been a vast increase in contested Wills, even over low value estates.

To protect your estate from such challenges it is ever more important to create a professionally drafted watertight Will.

A significant reason for the increase in claims is due to the Inheritance Provision for Family and Dependants Act 1975 (IPFDA). The IPFDA allows people to contest a Will where they were financially dependant upon the testator at the date of death but were not left as much as they needed. Or where they did not inherit at all because, for example,  the deceased died without a Will or where they were left out of the Will altogether.

The IPFDA allows the court to vary the distribution of the estate on a successful claim. An example of such a variation is in favour of a spouse, where the Court can make a ‘reasonable financial provision’ as would be reasonable in all the circumstance for the partner to receive, regardless of whether such a provision is required for their maintenance. Anyone else that makes a claim is entitled to such financial provision as would be reasonable in the circumstances for their maintenance.

Our head of Contested Probate and Wills, Jonathan Shipton believes that “There has been a significant increase in claims against estates because the courts discretion is so wide and those who fall into the class of potential claimants is so large, more and more of those who feel they have an entitlement consider making claims to the inevitable diminution of the value of the estate of those the testator intended to benefit”.

The rise can also be attributed to the recent Supreme Court case of Ilott v Mitson which provided that a child can still challenge a parent’s will even where the parent has deliberately chosen not to include the child. This has also resulted in Charities being forced in to litigation to defend their legacies.

The reality is that families are becoming more complex with divorce and remarriages on the rise. This has led to a long list of people, such as step-children, who expect to be provided for in Wills. This, along with longer life expectancy and rising house prices makes the small and ordinary estates worth fighting over for potential claimants.

So, what can you do to minimise the risk of a claim being made on your estate?

Although not legally binding, leaving a letter of wishes with your Will outlining the reasons for your decision and why certain people are not inheriting can be persuasive if the Will becomes contested in the future.

Our highly experienced Private client team at Goughs know the formalities surrounding the execution of a Will, they understand the process, and know how best to phrase your wishes.

Our Private Client experts will be happy to explain what is required and help you prepare Wills to protect your estate from potential claims of this nature.