A recent survey by a major insurance company has found that up to a quarter of the people surveyed would mount a legal challenge against a family member’s will if they are unhappy with it.
This is perhaps not surprising, as there have been indications for several years now of a steady rise in the number of people contesting a will. There are likely to be various factors at work here and, of course, each case will be different due to the families and individuals involved, but many lawyers specializing in this area agree that the rise in property values over recent years, particularly in London and the Southeast, combined with changes to traditional family structures has played a major part in the increase in claims.
It is a long-standing principle that you are free to distribute your estate on your death as you want to, but there is also legislation in place that may enable a disappointed beneficiary to bring a claim on the grounds that reasonable provision has not been made for them. With this in mind, it is sensible to take appropriate legal advice at the time you draw up your will. This would be even more important if you’re looking to exclude a close family member for some reason or are unsure how your relatives may react to how you would like to leave your estate. That way, appropriate steps can be taken to minimise the chances of a successful claim after your death, by properly recording the will writing process so as to be able to provide evidence after your death to counter the possible grounds for challenging your will.
Similarly, if you are thinking of challenging a will after someone has died, it is important to take specialist advice early on so that the correct grounds for a claim can be identified. A will can potentially be challenged on a number of grounds, but it is not necessarily straightforward, or quick, for the person looking to challenge a will to ultimately bring a successful claim.
There is a strong anecdotal evidence to suggest that most challenges to wills do not reach the Court but even so, there can be significant cost implications, both for those administering the estate where a challenge is made and also for an individual looking to bring any such claim.
If you would like to discuss the preparation of a will or a potential challenge to the will of someone who has died, please contact Patrick Green on +44 (0)20 7354 3000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.