Partner Philip D'Arcy, head of our Dispute Resolution team, discusses a rise in the number of individuals contesting a will and who can make a claim under the Inheritance Act.
In a recent survey by insurer Direct Line, over 12.5million British people said that they would be prepared to dispute a family member’s will if they did not agree with the way in which their estate had been divided. London had one of the highest proportions of residents who would consider taking matters to court, with 29% saying that they would contest a family member’s will.
Figures published by the Royal Courts of Justice and in the Financial Times suggest that the above is true, with the number of inheritance related disputes continuing to rise. A trend that is said to have in part been triggered by the various widely reported decisions in the Ilott v Mitson case which ran from 2007 all the way to the Supreme Court in 2017 and which concerned an adult child in very poor financial circumstances who had been estranged from her mother for many years succeeding in part in a claim for provision from her estate.
Disputes concerning wills come in many shapes and sizes, but the most common fall into two main categories; challenges to the validity of the will itself, so seeking to overturn the whole will and claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 seeking “reasonable provision” from the estate.
Who can make a claim under the Inheritance Act?
- Civil partner
- Former spouse or civil partner who has not remarried or entered a new civil partnership
- Individuals treated as a child of the family
How can you minimise the risk of a dispute?
Make a will through a solicitor. A well drafted will that takes account of all your circumstances and the possible claims that might be made is your best option to avoid a dispute. The solicitor can advise and keep records of your discussions which can be valuable should a claim be made.
You should ensure that you consider providing for anyone who would be entitled to claim. This doesn’t always mean leaving them anything. No provision can be reasonable provision under the Act if, for example, the person is already adequately provided for. However it some cases it will be best to leave them something so as to avoid a later dispute.
If you wish to “disinherit” anyone, a child for example, it can be a good idea to leave a statement with your will explaining your reasons for your decision.
Claims often arise because of disappointment or feelings of unfairness when the will is not as expected, so being clear with your family as to your intentions and the reasons for them can be a good idea.
For further information or legal advice, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0118 951 6800.
This article is intended for the use of clients and other interested parties. The information contained in it is believed to be correct at the date of publication, but it is necessarily of a brief and general nature and should not be relied upon as a substitute for specific professional advice.