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Will disputes on the rise: 6 circumstances creating contested wills

The number of contested wills have risen substantially in recent years. This post will set out below some of the reasons which might explain why the number of disputes is increasing:

 1.  Complex family structures

One factor behind the increase in contested wills could be that divorce, remarriage, cohabitation and children from multiple relationships are all much more common, resulting in more complex family structures and difficulty for a person making a will to take care of everyone or keep everyone happy.

 2.  Lack of contact

It is increasingly common for families to live further apart, which can place a strain on relationships due to difficulties regarding both communication and contact which can create scope for arguments and disputes between family members. If family members are not seeing their relatives regularly, or feel neglected by their family, those relatives may find themselves left out of a will.

 3.  Increased media coverage

Another reason could be that individuals today are more aware of their legal rights and the possibility of bringing a claim due to the ease of access the internet allows to news and media reports regarding this area of law. This can lead to an increased appetite for litigation where individuals are dissatisfied with the content of a will. 

 4.  Larger estates

House prices have increased in recent years, meaning that in many cases the estate of the loved one can be larger, and as a result individuals may be more likely to dispute the will as there is more at stake.

 5.  Ageing population

An ageing population means that conditions which affect a person’s capacity to carry out certain tasks or which can leave them vulnerable are more prevalent and this can mean that wills are more susceptible to challenges over testamentary capacity or undue influence.

 6.  Rise in ‘DIY wills’

Lastly, ‘DIY wills’ which individuals write themselves without legal advice or assistance can also lead to disputes over the validity of the will. Whilst it is possible to write a valid will without legal advice, any error can render the will invalid, or create ambiguity, and may result in unnecessary fees and delays regarding the distribution of the estate. In addition to a financial loss, this can also place a further emotional strain on the bereaved who must now deal with the fallout.

These are just a few of the factors that have played a role in the rise in the number of contested wills. Our next blog will cover some simple steps that can be taken in order to try and protect your will against any disputes or challenges that could arise.

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