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When it comes to wills, some clients come to me following the loss of a loved one, questioning whether their will was written fairly. It is often quite surprising to know what many of these clients are unaware that it is possible to contest a will, despite the fact it is a legal document.
According to a recent article, the number of disputed wills rose 6% last year – but it is predicted that number will rise as conflicts within families become more common. There is potentially also a link to an increase in the value of properties and other assets, as well as more generous pension schemes.
Disputes are more likely to arise where families have split, or divorces have led to second families – the children of which have perhaps depending upon an inheritance to help them buy their properties.
Rest assured, a will is the best way to ensure that an individual’s wishes are respected following their death, however, for those left behind, it is a comfort to know that if there are issues then all legitimate claims can be investigated fully. The main aim is to ensure that the wishes of the individual are protected, whilst family members are also given the platform to express disagreement.
For example, we’ve heard of cases where a mother has cut her daughter out of her will because she didn’t like her daughter’s husband, or where children of the deceased have had smaller shares, simply because they are more financially settled than other children. There can also be disputes surrounding care; should one child be entitled to more of an inheritance simply because they were sole carer? Perhaps if one child has helped build a family business, should the other children equally benefit?
Our recommendation is always to speak to your family and outline your intentions early on. However, if you are in a position where you would like to contest a will, the first thing you should consider is the basis for your claim. Do you feel your relative was unduly influenced? Did they lack mental capacity to make the decision? Are the witnesses viable? A lawyer can then advise in appropriate circumstances entering into a caveat – a document that delays obtaining probate to a will and therefore preventing the executors from distributing assets whilst a claim is heard.
If you would like more information, or further advice relating to your own will, contact the Private Client team at Downs Solicitors for more information.