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Inheritance disputes hit a record high

View profile for Helen Taylor TEP
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An extended family

There are all sorts of reasons someone may bring a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family Dependents) Act (IPFDA) 1975. It might be because an individual has been left out of a Will entirely, they receive less than they expected, or the deceased has passed away without making a Will. Here’s what you need to know about getting your Will right…

The Stats

The Times recently revealed that the number of cases involving adult children disputing their parents' estates in the High Court is up on previous years. Significantly, the statistics released in relation to claims issued in the High Court in 2015, highlight an increase of 11.5 per cent since 2014 - an increase from 104 claims in 2014, to 116 in 2015. This, when compared to the fact that only eight claims were heard by the High Court in 2005, illustrates the steep rise in claims being bought in the High Court under the IPFDA 1975.

However, it’s important to note these statistics still don’t give us the full picture. Essentially, the stats don’t take disputes settled prior to court action into account. Or the number of cases being brought in the County Court, which is a forum of choice for most contentious probate claims.

The reasons

1. Complex family structures

The complexity of modern family structures - the increase in cohabitation, civil partnerships and multiple marriages, for example - is thought to be a contributing factor to the increase in claims. For instance, with multiple marriages, it’s suggested tensions may arise among the children the deceased has left behind, especially between children who are from different marriages.

Moreover, with the increase in cohabitation, the problem arises when one of the individuals pass away without leaving a Will. At this point, the intestacy rules apply, which means the cohabitee won’t benefit from the estate. It’s argued this problem will not be overcome until the intestacy rules are updated to meet the changes in wider society.

2. Property Prices

It has also been suggested that the increase in property prices has contributed to the rise in claims being issued. This has the effect of increasing the value of the average net estate in this country to rise. In turn, this provides a much greater incentive for people to go to law to dispute their inheritance.

3. Knowledge and accessibility to law

The highly publicised case of Ilott v Mitson from July 2015 may have been a contributing factor to these increased statistics. The attention it received from the general public is said to have created awareness of the ability to bring a claim under the IPFDA 1975.

In the case, an estranged daughter was awarded a substantial sum of money, despite being deliberately disinherited by her mother’s Will. You can read our blog about this case here, dated 28 July 2015.

The legal advice

All this highlights the importance of getting professional legal advice when you’re putting a Will in place. A Will can prevent disputes between your family members and you’ll be advised if there are any potential claims against your estate.

If you’d like further information about Wills, please do get on contact with myself or one of our Private Client team on 01604 828282 who will be happy to help.

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