The Supreme Court is the final Court of Appeal in the UK, and hears cases of the greatest public or constitutional importance. In 2016, this court heard its first case challenging a Will. The question is why did a contested Will reach such a complex stage? And what can you do to keep your Will from being debated in court?
Many people assume that their last Will and testament is the final word on their estate, and the Will can be used as a mechanism to overcome any and all legal challenges your assets may face following your death. However, during the construction of a Will many stones can be left unturned leading to a lack of protection and a contested Will.
A Will can always be contested, and the best way to protect your assets and have peace of mind that your estate will be distributed in accordance with your wishes, is to plan for every eventuality.
Know your worth
The generation of Will makers today are unsuspecting property entrepreneurs. The chances are if you purchased a property in the twentieth century, the value of your home has increased. And if you do not plan on selling, you may not consider a valuation. However, to get a grasp of how much your home is worth, have a look at comparable houses for sale in your area; sounds simple but many of our clients do not know the value of their home, and are surprised when told!
It is important to ensure you know how much money and other valuables you have which would fall into your estate to be distributed and what will fall outside i.e. any named beneficiaries on life insurance policies.
You will then be equipped with the full and complete knowledge to think about how you would like your estate to be distributed based on an accurate valuation. A 5% gift of your estate may not sound significant, but 5% of what value? It’s the lack of information which can lead to a contested Will.
Communication is key
This could include explaining what is contained in your Will prior to your death to family and friends; sometimes it is the surprise which leads to a contested Will not actually that a person isn’t receiving what they expected. Many contested Wills are avoidable, and estates have been swallowed up by legal fees due to principle alone.
An additional statement annexed to your Will explaining your position can also be a good idea. Again, if family and friends understand your decisions, they are more likely to be at peace with it and not contest.
Stay up to date
Life happens very quickly and is full of surprises along the way! Remember to keep your Will up to date depending on your changing circumstances; this could be a growing family, a marriage or divorce. Wills are often contested due to them simply being decades out of date. You can make small changes to your Will by way of either a simple codicil, or a new fully updated Will.
Here at Stephensons we have a team of Wills specialists who will be able to draft your Will, along with any additional documentation to support your Will, to ensure your estate is protected and distributed as you expect. If you would like to book an appointment to discuss your Will, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our Wills and probate department on 01616 966 229.
By Michelle Hayes, probate executive in the Wills and probate team