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It doesn’t take long these days to scour the news to find a report about a family fighting over a loved one’s Estate. Those reports are often newsworthy even though they don’t effect anyone but the persons concerned. This is because we all have families and so, to some extent at least, we can relate to the issues at stake. The other reason is that contentious probate claims are becoming more common. What are the reasons behind this?
Family structures have changed enormously in the past 30 years. Years ago when the world was different - Mr and Mrs would have left their Estates to each other and then their children in equal shares - and that was broadly that.
But we live in a more complex place now. Re-marriages, cohabitation, step children, international considerations and families living further apart no doubt play a significant role in shaping this landscape. Also, there is no absolute right for children to be beneficiaries of their parents’ Estates (though the rules are different in other European countries). And there are often many calls upon a testator from beyond the family. Friends and charities are often the heart of a Will and this can sometimes be difficult for family members to bear and understand.
There is also a good chance there is a sizeable Estate at stake too. Property prices have rocketed over the past 30 years and a person living in a modest property but in the ‘right’ area may be sitting on a fortune. Now, their Estate has become something to fight for where once upon a time perhaps it wasn’t.
Turning to the validity of a Will, this now also a fertile ground for dispute too. Did the deceased have testamentary capacity? Were they unduly influenced? Did they really know what they were signing? And was it signed correctly? The routes to challenge a Will are varied and complex and should not be undertaken without experienced advice.
Homemade Wills can explain the rise in claims too. A professionally drawn up Will can cost as little as £200 but a Will pack from the high street only costs maybe £20. But that’s a false economy because if there is a problem with a homemade Will further down the line and after the testator has died, the costs of the fallout will far, far exceed the price paid for not having it professionally drawn up.
And this takes us back to why there are more claims. Someone reading that news report might think ‘Ah, this is similar to the same situation I am in’ and they will need careful advice. So there is greater awareness of the possibility of a potential challenge.
So if you have making or facing a contentious probate claim, we can help. Details of our offices can be found here.
If you have any questions regarding contentious probate please contact us on 01926 887700 or firstname.lastname@example.org