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More and more people are contesting a Will – Wards Solicitors explain the grounds for taking action

The number of people contesting a Will and falling out over inheritance has increased dramatically in recent years.

Statistics show that the number of cases involving adult children disputing their parents' estates in the High Court is up on previous years - from 104 claims in 2014 to 116 in 2015 and 158 in 2016.

Tip of iceberg

And these figures probably only show the tip of the iceberg as they don't take into account disputes settled prior to any court action or those brought in the county court, the first port of call for most contentious probate cases.

But there's no doubt, the issue of contesting a Will is one being considered by a growing number of people.

In fact, every month more than 13,500 people use the internet to search for terms relating to the subject and the number going ahead with a claim is on the rise. This is due, it's thought, to a number of different factors including:

  • Only a third of people have a Will - and without a Will the rules of intestacy apply which means the estate will be distributed under certain rules with a strict order as to who can inherit. Only direct family will inherit under intestacy, not unmarried partners or friends;
  • Complex family structures - the increase in cohabitation, for example, as well as the tendency for people to marry more than once and have children from more than one relationship;
  • An ageing population - as people live longer, there is an increase in age-related problems like dementia and lack of mental capacity;
  • Rising property prices - as the value of the average net estate rises there is more to fight over;
  • Increasingly high profile cases - an awareness of cases like that of Ilott v Mitson in which an estranged daughter was awarded a substantial sum of money despite being deliberately disinherited in her mother's Will, even though this was later overturned and the original award reinstated. You can read our news article on this case here.

Specific help and guidance

Bearing in mind the number of people wanting to know more about contesting a Will, we have prepared three specific legal guides to help:

  1. What are the grounds for contesting a Will?
  2. Who can contest a Will?
  3. How to contest a Will.

Time is of the essence

It is key to to remember that if you think you do have a reason to make a claim you should take legal advice as soon as possible for a number of key reasons:

  1. In relation to some grounds for contesting a Will, there is a strict time limit of six months to make a claim from the date the Grant of Probate was obtained;
  2. You may have several grounds to make a claim and some may have a higher chance of success than others or may be easier to prove. A solicitor can help you identify these;
  3. You may need to take preventative legal action to maximise your chances of success. For example, you may need a solicitor to apply for a 'caveat' which prevents the assets of the estate being distributed until the dispute is settled.

Follow these links to read some contested Will cases Wards Solicitors has written about:

Poisonous behaviour - how a Will was declared invalid using a rarely used and rarely successful challenge;

Estranged daughter inherits even though father's Will states she should receive nothing;

Sibling executors removed by judge after falling out over mother's Will;

Daughters win court battle to prove their parents' mutual Will was valid

For help and advice about contesting a Will, please contact Wards Solicitors' Probate Disputes team

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