Why are inheritance disputes on the rise?

Table of Contents

Why are inheritance disputes on the rise?


Common causes for inheritance disputes


What to do if you are left out of a Will?


Depending on your relationship with the Deceased and personal circumstances. Some specific individuals are entitled to apply to the court to be included under the Inheritance Act 1975. 


Disputes under this cause often come about when adequate financial provisions have not been made for those who believe they should have been included in the inheritance Will.


Celebrities like actor Daniel Craig and TV chef Gordon Ramsay have made recent statements regarding their legacy. They have said they will not be leaving a large inheritance to their children when they die, which could cause reason to contest the Will when they pass away.


Dying without leaving a Will (Intestate)

When someone dies without a Will, they are said to have died “intestate,” and their estate must be distributed following the rules of intestacy. Sadly, many people are unaware of the importance of creating a Will to ensure their estate does not fall under these rules, which may result in a distribution not following the Testator’s wishes. 


These estates may result in disputes between family members as people often assume that their closest loved ones will inherit even when they die without a Will, but this is not always the case.


Blended families


Changes in family dynamics, which include blended families and cohabiting couples. These types are a common cause of inheritance disputes. Unfortunately, the order of priority under the rules of intestacy in England, Wales and Scotland does not consider stepchildren or cohabiting couples. 


Therefore, an individual wanting their estate to be left to those loved ones will need to ensure a valid and up-to-date Will is in place.


Inheritance lending experts Tower Street Finance recently conducted detailed research amongst 2,000 UK adults. They were asked if they either expected to be left an inheritance or a beneficiary of a Will. The study revealed people’s reluctance to discuss inheritance combined with minimal understanding of the associated legal complexities; some of the key findings are:


  • 84% of UK adults plan to leave an inheritance. However, only 54% have a Will.
  • 32% of stepparents have a Will which does not treat their children and stepchildren equally
  • 17% of stepparents plan to exclude their stepchildren from an inheritance
  • 43% want to leave a legacy to their partner, although few understand that without a Will, those unmarried or not in a civil partnership would not be automatically entitled

Unfortunately, many are unaware of the legal difference between biological children and stepchildren. 

Stepparents who wish to leave their assets to their stepchildren in addition to their biological children will need to specify this in their Will to ensure they are included.


Homemade Wills


Homemade Wills may appear to be an attractive approach for someone to get their affairs in order due to the reasonable costs and ease of building.


However, this approach has given rise to various problems for the families of a Testator when the time arrives, which may result in disputes over complications such as Will validity.


Last year, research conducted by law firm Richard Nelson revealed that in the week leading up to the second national lockdown in 2020, Google searches for ‘make a free will online’ went up by over 600% and ‘free will template’ and ‘online will’ increased by almost 130%.


There were also increases of over 100% for ‘will template’, ‘how to write a will’, and an alarming 1,500% increase in the search for ‘DIY Will’. 


These figures have sparked concern among legal professionals in the industry as the websites providing these services are often based on standard templates, which should not be considered a ‘one-size-fits-all’ for everyone.


However, we are still sometimes away from seeing the full-blown effect this may have on future inheritance disputes.