The war over wills is on the rise

There has been a sharp rise in the number of disputes relating to wills, according to the Law Society. It is thought this is down to the complex nature and changing family circumstances, so it is wise to make sure your will is kept up to date.

Ian Bond, Chairman of the Law Society’s committee on wills, said that will disputes had risen by 50% compared to 2018. It’s something that we have also observed in the industry as we are certainly handling more enquiries than ever before. But why?

One reason could be down to how families are blended. After all, it is much more straight forward dealing with one direct descendant, than it is four or five, for example. It’s much more common for people to be re-married, adopt children or have step-children, or even step-grandchildren, and making sure everyone is happy can prove to be a minefield. The more interested parties there are in a will, the more likely there is to be a dispute. Balance that with your own wishes and you potentially have the recipe for a disaster.

For example, a man and woman divorce after having two children. The man remarries and has two more children. His marriage will revoke, cancel any existing will. Assuming he makes a new will and wants to look after his wife and younger children his estate may well be left to benefit his second wife as opposed to the children from his first marriage. Here’s where you may find your first dispute. Another may arise from the second two children, who may insist that biologically as direct descendants, they have more say over how their parents estate is divided. However, the first two children may face a long wait as their father’s estate may be left for the benefit of his second wife during her lifetime and possibly their biological children first.

We’ve also seen instances of step sisters in the news last year, who fought a legal battle over a £280,000 inheritance whilst the judge decided which of their parents, who passed away in a car accident, died first. There has also been a case in court recently where the High Court dismissed a £75,000 claim by a woman who insisted she was entitled to a share because she was in financial difficulty after caring for her father.

The only way you can ensure your estate is divided in accordance with your wishes - and to save a huge amount of heartache for your family - is to have a correctly drafted, up to date will in place. If you have a will already, when was the last time you checked it? Does it include any changes in circumstances? What about step-children, or step-grandchildren?

For more information or further advice in drafting your will, contact the Private Client team at Downs Solicitors to see how we can help.