Significant Rise In Will Disputes

Lawyers Say Death Rates Contribute To Rise In Problem Wills And Estate Administration

08.10.2015

  • Will disputes increase reported 
  • 60% of adults still don’t have a will 
  • 1 in 2 doesn’t know how assets are shared after death 
  • 52% of Britons don’t know what they might inherit from a partner and still work on the misconception that there is a “common law wife or husband” status
  • Will claims increase by 700%

Legal experts at Irwin Mitchell are warning that one factor which has had an impact on these statistics is the higher than average winter death rates from last year which are now giving rise to more arguments over wills and problems with people trying to carry out estate administration without specialist support. 

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) revealed earlier this year that the winter death rate was around a third higher than normal for the time of year with a flu virus and the cold weather potentially to blame. In the two-week period to 23 January 2015 there were 28,800 deaths registered which is 32 per cent higher than the average for the same period over the previous five years. This has led to a number of claims involving families regarding who receives the family estate and assets.

Now, specialist Wills, Trust and Probate lawyers at Irwin Mitchell say that although there is generally a traditional spike in enquiries over the Winter months, the high death rate has had a significant impact on the number of people contacting them with problems relating to estate administration and seeking to contest a will. Enquiries to the Disputes team are up 40% a month at this time of year compared to the average monthly figure.

Handling the Estate Administration and acting as executor of a will can have serious legal and financial consequences if not carried out correctly, with people potentially missing tax deadlines and facing the associated penalties, as well as facing future legal challenges if the assets are not distributed correctly.

One of the reasons for the high number of legal problems is that 60% of Britons still don’t have a will even though a study of 2,000 people by law firm Irwin Mitchell revealed that the majority of Britons have no idea how their assets would be distributed after death.

The survey also showed that 46% of Britons don’t know what their net worth is and that 52% of people in relationships don’t know what they might inherit from their partner in the event of their death and 46% have no clue about what accounts or investments their partner or family has.

Lawyers said they are particularly concerned that 30% of over 55’s surveyed admitted not having a will, and a staggering 82% of the 25-34 age group, despite this being the prime age for people getting married and having children.

The Irwin Mitchell study showed that people mostly intended to leave their assets to their partners (66%), children (58%) and siblings (13%) but with 53% saying they aren’t sure how assets are distributed after death, wills experts are warning that they may end up falling foul of intestacy laws.

Expert Opinion
"We now live in a world where individuals are not afraid of litigation. Even the very basic estate these days contains a property which is worth a significant amount of money and is therefore worth fighting over. We have seen an increase in Dementia and mental capacity related illnesses which are factors that are commonly introduced in these cases because as a nation, we are living longer and experiencing these health problems.

"We handle cases for a number of families where there are complicated family arrangements, this can include second marriages where there is conflict between children from a first marriage or cases which involve cohabitees or adult children who have been disinherited or not properly provided for.

"In some cases, their homes and livelihood are under threat and the law is in place to protect these individuals. There are also a number of examples of people leaving their estate to charity instead of their loved ones which can cause upset and unexpected grief for family members who expect to inherit."
Paula Myers, Partner

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in Will, Trust and Estate Disputes.