With the news that 12.6 million Brits would dispute a will, there is a real role for financial advisers to play in keeping families happy
More than 12.6 million (24%) people would seek to dispute the wishes of a loved one, going to court to challenge the bequests in their will.
New research from Direct Line Life Insurance shows the most common reason for contesting a will in the UK is on the grounds of ‘undue influence’, where the deceased was forced to sign a will or unreasonable pressure was placed on them.
However, according to legal experts, contesting wills on the grounds of undue influence are the least successful petitions, as the burden of proof is high and it falls on the person challenging the will to prove undue influence.
Other successful grounds for contesting wills are highlighted as ‘testamentary capacity’, where the mental and legal ability of a person to make or alter their will is challenged. The third most successful grounds are for ‘rectification and construction’ claims, if a clerical error was made in drafting or the person drafting it failed to reflect the intentions of the testator.
Analysis of figures supplied by HM Courts and Tribunals service shows the number of disputes regarding applications for probate increased by an estimated 6% in 2018. With each applicant attempting to stop a probate application ‘entering a caveat’ costing £20 each, Brits are spending in excess of £160,000 a year on this process excluding legal fees. In 2017, there were 8,159 caveats registered to block a grant of probate.
Looking at changing societal views may shed some light on the increasing arguments, according to Laura Abbott, an associate at law firm, Wright Hassall.
She says some factors might include:
- The ‘modern’ lifestyle – the increase in divorce and remarriage, and cohabitation, together with families living further apart, leading to more complicated family structures, so there is more scope for argument
- ‘The house price boom’ – society becoming more wealthy due to continuing house price rises, so there is more value to fight over
- ‘The ‘compensation culture’ – people becoming more aware of their legal rights and ability to bring claims if there is something amiss, so there is more of an incentive and appetite to litigate
- ‘The ageing population’ – increase in dementia rates meaning more people are making wills when they may not be in the best of health, so the wills are more susceptible to challenge.
Jane Morgan, business manager at Direct Line Life Insurance, says: “While our research reveals people are increasingly contesting wills, everyone has the right to choose how they’d like to distribute their assets, even if it seems unusual or excludes even the closest family members. “People can be surprised and hurt by the contents of a will, so people may wish to discuss with beneficiaries and those that might think they would inherit, how they plan to distribute their assets. Those who do wish to leave an additional provision beyond the assets in their estate should consider investing in a life insurance policy, as it can offer additional financial support for loved ones when someone passes away.”
Image credit | Ikon
Almost a third (31%) of the residents of Southampton would be prepared to ignore the wishes of a loved one if they felt they were being unfairly excluded from their will and would seek to contest it in court. Residents of London are the most likely to contest the will of a parent if they disagree with the division of the estate, with 21% willing to head to court to secure what they feel is their fair share. Almost one in five (18%) residents of Norwich would contest the will of their partner if they did not agree with the division of assets.
Source: Direct Line Life Insurance