According to official records, the number of legal challenges against Wills increased from less than 12,000 in 2014 to over 14,000 in 2015. The High Court saw 116 cases of children challenging their parents’ estates in 2015, compared with 104 in 2014. This rise can be attributed to changing family culture, where divorce, remarriage and stepfamilies are more commonplace now than they have been in the past.
An older divorcee will often go on to remarry or cohabit but neglects to change their Will, or they fail to make a Will at all. That inevitably leads to dispute between the ‘new family’ and the children from earlier marriages or relationships.
With property prices increasing so much over the past few years, estates are now much larger, which means there is suddenly a pot worth fighting over. This, along with the difficulties the younger generation are facing trying to buy their first home, incentivises disgruntled family members to dispute the division of assets to achieve what they consider to be their ‘fair share’.
There have been several high profile cases in this area, such as Ilott v the Blue Cross in the Supreme Court, which saw Heather Ilott contest her mother’s decision to leave the majority of her estate to charity. There was also the dispute between the children of Sir George Martin, the music producer, and another involving the television magician Paul Daniels, who left his fortune to his wife over his two sons.
Whilst property prices remain high and the modern family exist, sadly estate disputes will continue to happen.
If you would more like more information regarding contentious trusts and probate, please contact Alexia Thomas.
Children are increasingly turning to the courts to challenge their parents’ wills, as rising property prices swell the value of estates. High levels of divorce and remarriage are also complicating legacies, as members of extended step-families battle for what they consider to be their rightful inheritance. More children are also challenging donations to charities made by parents in their wills. The number of cases involving children who dispute their parents’ estates in the High Court rose to 116 in 2015 from 104 the previous year. There were more cases where the parties settled out of court.