Huge Increase In Will Disputes ‘A Sign Of The Times’

Newspaper Figures Reflect ‘Complexities of 21st Century Family Life’


By Rob Dixon

The massive increase in the number of will dispute cases in the past five years highlights both the more complicated nature of 21st century family life and the need for those preparing wills to ensure their loved ones understand the decisions they make, according to specialist lawyers.

Figures released by The Independent earlier this year suggested there had been a 700 per cent increase in the number of cases related to contesting wills taken to the High Court in London.

It is believed that the total number of will disputes involving the assets of either living or dead family members under the consideration of the High Court stands at around 300, which is a significant increase on the figure of 95 recorded in 2006.

Irwin Mitchell’s specialist Will, Trust and Estate Disputes team has vast expertise in providing advice and support to people across the UK and abroad who have concerns over a loved one’s estate, helping them to gain justice and access to what they are entitled to.

Louise Sykes, a Partner and head of the team of experts, said: “These kinds of numbers demonstrate not only how the number of cases launched has risen, but also how awareness of the ability to challenge and contest the terms of a will under the Inheritance Act has also increased – with people realising they can seek advice from legal specialists to gain what is rightfully theirs.

“It also reflects how family life in the 21st century has evolved. With more people divorcing and remarrying, wills now need to be updated to take into account their changing circumstances and ensure that step-families are acknowledged in the wishes outlined.

“Through our work on cases in the UK, as well as those related to international wills, we see scenarios where people have failed to keep their wills updated in this way, as well as instances when some people have simply not prepared one in the first place.

“As we see so often, this can create hugely difficult situations for their relatives and friends, often leaving them locked in difficult battles over how an estate should be ideally divided.”

Louise added: “It is also very important for those who are writing a will to speak to their friends and family about the decisions they have made, leaving everyone in no doubt as to what the documents outline and why. Including loved ones in the process can ensure that everyone is clear on your wishes.

“Forward planning and regularly updating wills is key to this, but of course these figures show this doesn’t always happen. We would urge anyone who does have a concern about a loved one’s will to always seek specialist advice to consider their options and whether they can challenge the terms of such a document.”

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in relation to Will, Trust & Estate Disputes