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Rise in inheritance disputes

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The number of people challenging contesting Wills left by their relatives or partners has risen by 38% over the past year, according to data from the High Court. This data shows that the number of court cases launched by people, including children, spouses and cohabitees, who feel they have not been properly provided for in Wills, or on intestacy (where someone has died without making a Will), went up from 80 in 2008 to 110 in 2009. It reveals a ten-fold increase in such cases over the last three years, increasing from just 10 in 2006.
I am a solicitor specialising in contested Wills and inheritance disputes, and deal with these cases on a day to day basis. I too have seen an increase in the number of cases, and enquiries, over the past few years. In my view, a main factor in the rise in disputes is the recession; as the value of many estates slump, and hard times encourage people to contest Wills or intestacies. The growing complexity of family structures, the reduction in people getting married, and out-dated inheritance and intestacy laws, are all additional factors which I believe have led to this increase.
A further factor attributable may also be the growing popularity of DIY will kits, which people often pick up from stationery shops. The rules that ensure the validity of a Will are complicated, and in practice, I have seen many occasions where homemade Wills have either been executed incorrectly, rendering them invalid, or have left a vulnerable person open to undue influence and sometimes fraud. I can only stress the importance in my view, for everyone to make a Will, and to have it prepared professionally by a solicitor. It is a very low cost process, which could save thousands of pounds in the future, for those relatives who have to then pay legal costs to challenge the Will.
For those people who think they may be able to contest a Will, or challenge an intestacy, the types of challenges are extensive. As well as a Will not being prepared or executed properly, the person making it may not have had sufficient mental capacity to make it, or may have been unduly influenced into making it. Sometimes, it can transpire that a Will has been forged, and is then invalid for that reason.
The scope for inheritance disputes increases significantly with the number of spouses, ex spouses, partners and children that are involved. Anyone who was financially dependent upon the deceased at the time of their death may be able to bring a claim to contest a Will or an intestacy. 
If you are in any doubt as to whether you may be able to bring a claim, then contact our specialist litigation team who deal with inheritance disputes on 01616 966 229. If you are of limited financial means, you may even be entitled to Legal Aid, and we can advise you of this quickly over the phone.
You can also make your Will with Stephensons. We offer online Wills or you can come in to see one of our experienced and accredited Wills solicitors face to face.