The surge in the number of will disputes is likely to continue as families argue over contentious legacies, according to a leading lawyer.
Latest figures from the Ministry of Justice show that the High Court alone heard 178 will disputes in 2014, nearly double the number in 2013 and the highest in England and Wales for seven years.
Lawyers believe the increase in disputed wills is partly because of the rise in second marriages resulting in more people who expect to be provided for under wills.
Adrian Lyon, a solicitor in the dispute resolution unit at Langleys Solicitors, says: “More complex family relationships as a result of divorce and second marriages mean that people can sometimes be disappointed when a will fails to provide for them.
“Another factor for there being more disputed wills is the increase in property prices which has resulted in estates being worth a lot more and therefore creating an incentive for disappointed beneficiaries to consider their position.”
The high profile case of Heather Ilott in the Court of Appeal has focussed attention on the issue of will disputes. She was written out of her mother’s will but contested it and eventually received a third of the estate.
Wills can be challenged under the Inheritance Act which allows certain people to make a claim for reasonable financial provision. It is also possible to dispute the validity of a will. Common reasons for a will being invalid include it not being properly signed and witnessed and undue influence exerted by a beneficiary.
Adrian adds: “When making a will it is important to take professional legal advice to ensure that all steps are taken to limit the risks of a claim being made. Where people are concerned about the contents of a will, they should seek prompt advice as tight time limits apply.”