A record number of inheritance disputes are reaching the High Court despite rising court costs and the risk involved with losing a case. The number of cases brought to the High Court under the Inheritance Act in 2015 was 116, compared to 15 cases in 2005. The figure is considered to be just the tip of the iceberg when cases settled out of court or in County Court are taken into account.
Disputes can arise when no Will has been left and those closest to the deceased are not necessarily those entitled under the rules of intestacy. For example, a care giver or life-long friend would lose out under intestacy and the nearest, entitled blood-relative may be a distant cousin. Another, increasingly common cause for dispute is when a Will has become invalid due to a change in circumstances i.e. a divorce. This could result in parents or siblings of the deceased inheriting instead of the deceased’s new partner.
In many cases, a Will has been left, but someone doesn’t agree with how the estate is to be distributed. We had a recent case where an estranged daughter attempted to claim against an estate that was bequeathed to three animal charities.
It is estimated that around six million people cohabit in the UK, many of whom will be in ‘blended-families’ (where partners have children from previous relationships). The rise in inheritance disputes could be attributed to this growing change in family structure. But what else could be contributing to this marked increase? One view is that increasing house prices, and therefore the inheritance at stake, makes the risk of going to court worth the gamble.
It is more important than ever to make sure that you have an up-to-date Will tailored to your personal circumstances. Married homeowners may wish to consider a Will based on the Casey & Associates homeowner’s Will.
If you would like to meet with one of our Consultants to discuss any of the issues raised in this article or any other Estate Planning topic please telephone 01732 868190 or click here.