The number of family disputes over wills continues to rise according to new research.
A report in the Times newspaper says there was an 11% increase last year in the number of people challenging their parents’ wills in the High Court. It’s thought that an increasing number of cases are also being settled out of court.
Lawyers say there could be several reasons for the increase but it’s likely that the changing nature of family structures is an important factor. The rising number of remarriages and second relationships has led to more complex family arrangements.
Step-children may assume that they are entitled to inherit from step-parents and are prepared to challenge a will if they don’t get as much as they expected. Conversely, children from a first marriage may feel step-children from a second relationship have been left too much and so they mount a challenge on that basis.
There is also a tendency for extended families to live far apart and have little personal contact. This can make them more willing to challenge each other over family assets.
Rising house prices also mean that substantial sums are now at stake, giving family members a greater incentive to dispute a will that they believe is unfair to them.
The best way to reduce the risk of family disagreements is to make sure your will is properly drawn up with the help of a solicitor. It may also help to explain your decisions to family members, especially if you fear your will may disappoint someone.
People who feel they have not been properly provided for in a will should seek advice from a solicitor. Most cases can be settled out of court through mediation, which is much less expensive and far less stressful than court action.
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