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COVID-19: Are inheritance disputes more likely than ever?

There have been several notable cases involving inheritance disputes during the current pandemic that have been widely covered in the media. Two of the most prominent cases were the High Court battle over the estate of the ‘Watership Down’ author Richard Adams and the daughter who successfully invalidated the Will of her mother due to delusions that she was a spendthrift.

The claim in the second case was made under the Inheritance Act 1975, which enables individuals to make a claim where a Will, or a lack of a Will, fails to provide them with ‘reasonable financial provision’. Those that can apply under the Act include spouses, civil partners, children and individuals who can prove financial dependency on the deceased.

But why is the coronavirus pandemic causing an increase in inheritance disputes?

One reason is that a significant number of adults in the UK do not have a Will. A recent study suggested that more than half of all parents in the UK with children under the age of 18 have not made a Will specifying how their estate should be distributed in the event of their death.

If you die without a valid Will, known as dying intestate, then your estate will be divided in accordance with intestacy rules, rather than any intended wishes that you may have.

Another reason is the complex nature of modern families, with blended families and step-children becoming more common. This makes it even more essential that you not only have a Will, but that you ensure it is up-to-date following any significant changes in your life, such as marriage, divorce, the birth of a child or grandchild, or the death of a loved one that may be included in your Will.

Probate disputes arising from former partners can be complex, particularly if there are children from a second or third marriage, and ex-partners may be entitled to a share of the estate.

The increasing availability of cheap online Wills can also contribute to an increase in inheritance disputes, with the potential for issues as the Will is being created by somebody without any legal experience.

To ensure your Will is created as intended, and that it is valid, it’s important to seek expert legal advice.

For more help and advice on matters relating to inheritance, probate, Wills and estate planning, contact our expert team today.

 

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Rachel Gadsden

Rachel Gadsden

Private Client Executive at Mander Hadley Solicitors
I joined Mander Hadley in 2018 as a Private Client Executive in the Wills, Probate and Older Client Services team.

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