Could Your Will Be Contested?
More and more Wills are being contested in the High Court and last year the number of disputes rose 80% – the highest number of cases since 2007
It is believed booming property prices are the “main motivation” for children and other family members to contest a Will, but that’s not the only reason. Estranged families, divorce and second marriages all add to the mix.
There have been a number of high-profile cases including Dame Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop who left none of her £51m fortune to her daughters, but instead left it to charity.
Before her untimely death in 2007 of a brain haemorrhage, Dame Anita Roddick made it publicly known she was having a “joyful” time giving away around £3 million a year to human rights, social and environmental groups
The most recent case to hit the Press was the case of Illott v Mitson which after over 10 years of wrangling was finally settled in the Supreme Court in 2017. In this case the estranged daughter, Mrs Illott , claimed her mother should not have excluded her from benefitting from her £480,000 Estate, which was left to three animal charities.
I have no idea of the costs of this case, but after 10 years of rattling round the legal system, I doubt there was much of the original £480.000 Estate left.
Avoiding Your Will Being Challenged
Being open about your will while you are writing or updating it can help to prepare children or other beneficiaries for what’s in it hence preventing it becoming a shock or surprise when it is read. Sometimes there is a perfectly good reason why siblings are treated differently.
To avoid possible claims that you didn’t know what you were doing or were being influenced by others, write your Will in your early years. It can never be too early to write your Will nor can you be too young once you reach 18. We also ask you a number of questions to which we record and document the answers. We ask you to sign the documented answers to confirm these being your answers given freely and without any undue influence of others. This will protect you and prove your wishes should someone contest your Will.
We are always present at a Will signing, to stop anyone saying it doesn’t fulfil the technical requirements of a Will. Again, the entire Will process is documented from start to finish with an overriding case of file notes.
If you decide to exclude a spouse, or family member, then we insist you write a Letter of Wishes giving a very detailed explanation of your reasons for doing so.
Claims can also be brought if you promised to leave assets to someone, but fail to do so in your Will. The claimant can say that they have suffered detriment – financial or otherwise – because they relied on the promised inheritance.
The obvious way to avoid these sorts of claims is by not promising assets in the first place and then changing your mind. If circumstances do change, however, and you need to renege, try to do it before the detriment goes too far, or compensate the person at the time. Again, anything of material significance should be included in your Letter of Wishes.
So when you write your Will with us, you can feel reassured that your wishes will be adhered to and that any challenge to your Will is unlikely to succeed.