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Protecting Your Legacy: Why Inheritance Claims are Rising in the UK

A family dispute over inheritance can evoke a mix of emotions – including confusion, disappointment, anger and upset. Challenging a will can be a daunting and emotional process, especially when grieving a loss and dealing with tricky family dynamics.

In recent years, there has been a noticeable rise in inheritance disputes in the UK, leaving families torn apart and legacies tarnished. It is crucial to address possible issues that could arise when making plans for your inheritance and ensure that what you leave behind stays in the family and out of the court.

Tim Fielding, Director and Head of Dispute Resolution at Barker Booth & Eastwood explains why we are seeing a surge in legacy disputes and what can be done to mitigate the risk.

Rising Tide of Inheritance Disputes

The number of disputes reaching the court has more than doubled in the past decade according to data from the Ministry of Justice. It is now estimated that as many as 10,000 people in England and Wales are embroiled in a dispute over a will or estate claim every year. Whilst many are settled outside of court, the number of claims making it to the court room has risen by over 35% in the last year.

So why are more people finding themselves in disputes over their loved one’s estates?

There are a number of reasons why we are seeing a surge in disputes, some include:

  • Families are more complicated than ever before. The ‘traditional’ family unit with a married couple and 2.4 children has become less common place. Many families are now blended, with re-married parents and stepchildren. Complex dynamics does give rise to complications if the correct preparation has not been put in place.
  • The general wealth of families and high property prices means there is a lot more at stake now when it comes to being left out or unfairly provided for in someone’s estate.
  • The pandemic prompted many people to quickly make wills – perhaps without the correct consideration or use of a regulated solicitor. It also made it easier for people to make a will whilst under duress without the face-to-face meeting with a professional that would usually help determine any red flags.
  • The cost-of-living crisis means that some families are using cheap, unregulated will writers, online templates or choosing not to make a will or seek financial advice that would help them to carefully protect their assets and plan for the future.
  • We have an increase in the number of people living with dementia and living longer. Challenges on the grounds of mental capacity have risen, becoming a significant factor in contentious probate disputes.
  • People are more aware of their legal rights than ever before with social media, the internet and press covering cases of disputes, which could give people the confidence to pursue a dispute.

The Emotional Toll of Challenging a Will

Embarking on the journey of disputing a will can impact the wellbeing of everyone involved. It’s a path laden with emotional hurdles from grief to loss and feelings of betrayal and injustice. The process is far more than a legal formality – it is a deeply personal ordeal that can strain family relationships indefinitely.

Instructing an experienced solicitor in this area of law will help you to keep focused on the positive outcome and give you the confidence that your matter is being managed effectively.

Strategies for Preventing Inheritance Disputes

Nobody likes the thought of families being pulled apart over a nasty inheritance dispute. Or the idea of their hard-earned legacy being drained by legal bills and court fees, leaving less for the loved ones it was intended for.

  • Ensure that you have a professionally written will by specialist solicitors
  • Regularly review and update your will whenever your circumstances change
  • Don’t leave it too late to write a will. Make your will whilst you are in good health
  • Appoint trusted executors or a firm of solicitors to manage your estate administration
  • Discuss your estate planning with your family members to avoid any confusion
  • Seek financial advice from a trusted financial advisor

Adopting these strategies doesn’t just safeguard your assets, but it also protects the emotional wellbeing of your family members, ensuring that your departure brings them together rather than driving them apart.

Considering Making a Claim?

If you are caught up in a dispute or have found yourself unexpectedly left out of the estate of someone you believed would be setting aside some provision, then you might be thinking about making a claim against their estate.

Firstly there may be ground to challenge the validity of the will itself such as by asserting;

  • Undue influence from other family members or beneficiaries
  • Fraud or forgery
  • Ambiguity in the will
  • Lack of mental capacity or understanding when the will was made
  • Lack of financial provision for dependants
  • Uneven asset distribution or unfair treatment

Even if the will is valid the Inheritance (Provisions for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 allows family members or dependants to make a claim if they believe they have not been adequately provided for. They can seek reasonable financial provision from the estate.

Making a claim does not mean that you will automatically go all the way to court. There are alternative methods, such as mediation, which can help you to reach an agreement without the need to attend court. This is often a more efficient, amicable and cost-effective way to overcome disagreements.

Seeking legal advice early is key to a successful claim, as matters can become more complex the further the administration of the estate is down the line. There are also strict timescales and processes that must be adhered to. You only have 6 months from the grant of probate to bring an inheritance claim.

Contact Us

Our team offer calm, friendly and considered advice when it comes to navigating an inheritance dispute or challenging a Will.

To speak to one of our specialists in this area, please contact us on 01253 362 500 or email

We strive to achieve the best possible outcome for you and your family, so that you can move on from a difficult chapter with confidence and financial stability.

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