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Soaring property prices trigger record 14,000 challenges to wills in a year as a rise in divorces and remarriage leads to disputes between 'modern families'


04-09-2017

Soaring property prices trigger record 14,000 challenges to wills in a year as a rise in divorces and remarriage leads to disputes between 'modern families'

The number of challenges rose from 11,735 in 2014 to 14,167 in 2015

Many now tailor their wills to favour one child ahead of another

Rising property prices give beneficiaries 'a larger pot to fight over'

By Chris Gysin For The Daily Mail

Rising property prices have helped to trigger a record number of legal challenges against wills.

More than 14,000 attempts were made to contest wills in 2015

More than 14,000 attempts were made to contest wills in 2015 as estates become more valuable.


With divorce and remarriages increasing, figures from the Government’s probate register saw the number of challenges rise from 11,735 in 2014 to 14,167 the following year. 

Many cases were settled before they reached court, but the number eventually being heard by the High Court rose from 98 in 2012 to 164 in 2015.


More than 14,000 attempts were made to contest wills in 2015


An older divorcee will often go on to remarry but neglects to change their will. The will becomes out of date – leading to disputes between their new family and the children from their previous marriage.


‘Modern families are often much more complicated, with second and third marriages commonplace and cohabitation being more popular,’ said Paula Myers, a partner at law firm Irwin Mitchell.

‘Also, with property values increasing rapidly over the past 20 years estates are now much larger than they were decades ago, meaning a larger pot for people to fight over.’ Charlotte Watts, a partner at law firm Wilsons which obtained the figures, said most arguments involve the distribution of assets by disappointed family members.


While it is unusual for a parent to disinherit a child, many now tailor their wills to favour one child ahead of another.


Often the person objecting to the will has been hurt both emotionally and financially by its contents.
Miss Watts told the Financial Times: ‘A person’s will tends to be a reflection of the relationships they held during their lifetime.


Rising property prices have helped to trigger a record number of legal challenges against wills

‘This can be very hard for some children to process if they had fallen out with their parent, for example, or if they had always believed their sibling was favoured and the will supports this.’


Nearly one in ten people over 65 is now a divorcee and there have been several high profile examples of wills being fought over.


Recent disputes include one between the children of Beatles producer George Martin and another involving Debbie McGee, the widow of magician Paul Daniels, and his son. The case of Ilott versus The Blue Cross saw Heather Ilott contest her mother’s decision to leave the majority of her estate to charity. In a judgment given last month the Supreme Court ruled that mother-of-five Heather Ilott, 56, would receive only £50,000 from her late mother’s £486,000 estate after a ten-year battle.


Mrs Ilott had been disinherited by her estranged mother Melita Jackson who then left the bulk of her estate to three animal charities that she had not even supported.


Supreme Court justices overturned a Court of Appeal decision, which awarded Mrs Ilott, from Great Munden, Hertfordshire, £163,000.


They ruled an order made by a district judge in 2007, that the sum should be £50,000, is to be ‘restored’.
The Blue Cross, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals all benefited from the £113,000 difference

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