According to a survey, the number of inheritance claims against what are perceived to be ‘unfair wills’ has risen steadily over the past decade.
Younger people in particular tend to take the view that their parents owe a moral obligation to make financial provision for them upon their death.
This runs counter to the general legal principle in the UK that we should have testamentary freedom and be at liberty to do what we want with out assets when we pass away.
However, over the years (and particularly since 1975 when the Inheritance Act came into force) the courts have been increasingly willing to intervene and dictate who should receive the deceased’s assets, regardless of what they have said in their will.
This rise in inheritance litigation has been observed by our own Contentious Probate team. they are based at our offices in Devon and Somerset, but deal with inheritance disputes and unfair will challenges nationwide.
The number of enquiries we receive corresponds with the survey’s findings, indicating that people are now much more likely to challenge a will if they think it’s unfair.
Attitudes to inheritance have undoubtedly changed over the years and nowadays we tend to expect the courts to step in when a will is unfair.
In addition, changing social factors have played a big role. We see many more unfair will challenges now arising where there have been second or third marriages, with children from different relationships vying over who should get what.
It’s increasingly common for the children of a first marriage to find ‘their inheritance’ being passed on by a step parent to their step brothers or step sisters, leaving them without any provision from their own parent’s estate.
We suspect that in due course the law will need to change to specifically address this reoccurring problem, but in the meantime any claim will have to be dealt with in accordance with the existing Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
If you are contemplating an inheritance claim or challenging an unfair will, whether you are in Devon, Somerset or elsewhere in the country, then you can make use of our FREE inheritance Dispute Helpline on freephone 0333 888 0404. Alternatively send details of your case to us at [email protected]