The death of a loved one is a difficult time, and, where there are disputes about a Will, the stress and upset can make it even harder. But what can children, spouses and partners do if they feel they have been overlooked unfairly in the last wishes of their nearest and dearest? And, how can we prevent such disagreements from arising in the first place?
Why do Wills get disputed?
There has been a rise in disputes between family members over inheritance. Changing family structures – which often include people co-habiting, second marriages and second families – are thought to be contributing to this rise. Also, an ageing population means that Wills are being written later in life, at a stage where capacity is more likely to have deteriorated – this is another ground on which a Will can be disputed.
In addition, rising property values mean that a growing number of estates are now thought to be worth contesting. Furthermore, the number of people leaving money to charities after they have gone has risen, and this corresponds with a rise in disputes over charitable gifts in Wills.
Dying without a Will
In many cases, disputes over inheritance occur because a person dies without a Will and so their final wishes are not clear.
Many individuals still believe that their estate will automatically go to their spouse when they die, but this is not always the case.
With disagreements over money or property devastating those left behind, and often very expensive to resolve, a properly prepared and considered Will should be a priority for us all.
However, it’s important to note that, even with a Will, written in sound mind, it can still be challenged. In fact, recent cases have shown that a Will can be overruled if it is thought to be unreasonable or purely spiteful. As such, careful drafting and consideration is essential.
Who can dispute a Will?
- Husbands, wives and civil partners
- Former spouses/civil partners who have not subsequently remarried or entered into a civil partnership
- Children of the deceased (including adoptive children and adult children)
- A cohabitee who lived with the deceased person for two or more years before they died
- Someone who was financially dependent on the deceased
- A beneficiary under the Will or an earlier Will
- Someone who is owed money or was promised something by the deceased.
With research suggesting that just 40% of Britons make a Will, and arguments around mental capacity being put forward in an increasing number of cases, this issue is likely to become increasingly more contentious.
To make sure your Will is passed on in line with your wishes, or to dispute a Will, speak to legalmatters. Call us on 01243 216900 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.