The rise in inheritance disputes

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Inheritance disputes have increased by 37% since 2019. Whether this is because a global pandemic focused people’s minds on the need to have financial affairs in order or due to increased public interest from recent television programmes such as ‘The Inheritance’ and ‘Inheritance Wars: Who Gets the Money’, it isn’t clear.

In this blog, our expert solicitors look at what could be behind this rise in inheritance disputes.

An increase in DIY Wills

With a lot of uncertainty when the Covid pandemic hit, many people made the decision to get their affairs in order. With travel restrictions, financial struggles, social distancing and general fear restricting everyday life, many people turned to the internet for guidance on creating their own Wills.

There is no doubt that these homemade Wills have been a factor in the rise in inheritance disputes. Avoiding a solicitor might seem like a good idea at the time to save money but a DIY Will can leave the door open to disputes later down the line, leaving you more out of pocket than if you had just paid a legal expert to start with.

Blog | Beware: the case against DIY Wills

Why do I need a solicitor to write my Will?

Disputes can come from a loved one’s DIY Will if errors were made in the document or the strict witnessing rules were not followed correctly, making the document invalid.

These errors can leave loved ones with emotional and financial strain, and their legacy could be eaten away by legal bills or unnecessary tax.

A professional Will writer or solicitor has received legal training and will have plenty of experience under their belt, meaning that they can provide tailored advice to you and your circumstances and, at the end of it, a Will that accurately reflects your wishes. This not only means that you will have a proper, legally robust document but you can rest easy knowing that your affairs will be in order once you die.

Blog | Why it’s worth paying for a solicitor

Dying intestate

When a loved one dies without leaving a valid Will in England and Wales, their property and money will be shared according to the rules of intestacy rather than their express wishes. In some cases, married couples or civil partners and close relatives may inherit under these rules but the rules do not currently reflect modern family relationships, e.g. unmarried couples and cohabitees. So, if you die without a Will and you were not married to your partner; they will not be entitled to inherit anything from you by right.

If a Will is not left or is invalid, this can prove complicated to resolve when it comes to who inherits the estate, causing inheritance disputes between relatives and beyond.

With more people living together without being married or in a civil relationship (whether that trend was accelerated by ‘bubbles’ during lockdown or not), it’s no surprise that inheritance disputes from disgruntled individuals have increased by a third.

Case study | Defending an Inheritance Act 1975 claim

Blended families

With a rise in blended families over the last few years, it can prove tricky to decide who to leave your assets to in your Will and can prove even more difficult when a Will is not left. If this happens, the deceased’s estate can be entirely or mostly inherited by the surviving spouse, with the children not receiving anything. This situation often leads to a dispute.

If you are part of a blended family, there are various options available to reduce the likelihood of an inheritance dispute arising. One option is to set up a Life Interest Trust, where your Will, for example, allows for someone to occupy your property for the remainder of their life. Once they have passed away, your property is transferred to a beneficiary named in your Will. An experienced Will writing solicitor can advise you on all options available.

Cost of living

With coronavirus now in the rearview mirror, the cost of living crisis is very much in the front seat and dictating our lives, albeit from a different perspective.

Covid-19 caused financial strain amongst many of us, whether through unemployment or a change in lifestyle. The recent hike in the cost of living has also forced us to look at our finances and make cutbacks, but it’s also got us scrambling for bargains and to hold on to every penny that we can.

For some, selling unwanted clothing online has helped to top up their finances, whilst others are making more significant moves, such as looking to claim what they think should be theirs in the way of inheritance. There is a possibility that increased property prices and expensive day-to-day living have influenced people to look into whether they are entitled to money or assets from deceased loved ones. This may seem drastic to some, but in cases where there is no Will or there is any level of ambiguity, the door is open to a challenge.

How are inheritance disputes resolved?

Most inheritance dispute cases are resolved by mediation; a flexible and confidential process used to resolve a dispute between two or more people which involves a mediator who can talk through the issues and help come up with a mutually agreeable solution.

Normally, a Will or estate dispute can be resolved without any unnecessary conflict and with an out-of-court settlement, however, if this does not work, an experienced solicitor can advise on court proceedings. Here, a judge will hear both ‘sides’ and settle the dispute.

Inheritance disputes can be complex, not to mention stressful and the last thing you need after a loved one has died. Seeking legal advice can take some of this stress and uncertainty away.

How we can help with inheritance disputes

Our lawyers have noticed an increase in enquiries regarding inheritance disputes. As with any type of dispute, it is vital to obtain legal advice as soon as possible.

Whether you believe you have been left out of a Will, your inheritance is not what you expected, or you have concerns about the validity of a Will, our specialist inheritance disputes solicitors can advise you on the next steps.

To speak to our expert inheritance dispute lawyers in Bristol and South Gloucestershire, call us on 0117 325 2929 or fill out our online enquiry form.


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