An astonishing one in four people would be willing to contest the will of a family member if they disagreed with the division of their estate according to research by Direct Line Insurance.
This finding is borne out in court statistics which show the number of disputes about wills to be on the rise.
The most common reason for contesting a will is that the deceased was put under unreasonable pressure or ‘undue influence’ when creating and signing the document.
A will can be challenged on a number of grounds:
- Undue influence
- Lack of knowledge and approval, meaning the deceased was not aware of the contents of the will or there were suspicious circumstances
- Fraudulent and forged wills
- Lack of valid execution, for example, requirements weren’t met in terms of who signed the will and how
- Testamentary capacity, which covers the legal ability and mental capacity of the person making the will
- Rectification and construction, where a clerical error is made when the will is written
A further type of claim is also on the rise, where family members or other dependants of the deceased have not been adequately provided for by the deceased’s distribution or under the intestacy rules. These types of claims are not strictly a challenge to the validity of the will. Instead they are a claim against the estate for a reasonable financial provision.
There are a number of factors that can increase the likelihood of a will being challenged including:
- People marrying more than once or living with partners without tying the knot.
- Children and step-children in more complex family structures.
- Reliance on inheritance to provide for retirement or get onto the property ladder.
- Mistakes are also far more likely to occur in homemade wills or those drawn up by unregulated will-writers. Instructing a solicitor to write your will grants far more protection, guaranteeing high levels of expertise.
The findings of Direct Line’s research are not particularly surprising. We see more and more grieving relatives who are upset at the contents of a will and feel that they have been unfairly treated.
This should be a warning to families to get good advice when making their wills. Prevention is certainly better than cure and even if it costs just a little extra to draw up your will, it will be significantly less than the cost of a challenge later on down the line, not to mention the stress and divisions that contesting a will causes within families.