Following a recent court of appeal ruling, inheritance dispute claims could become easier for family members who feel they have been left out in the will of a relative whilst one or more charities benefited.
In this particular case, after Heather Ilott apparently fell out with her mother, Melita Jackson, she was left out of her mother’s will in favour of various charities. The judges commented that they felt it was “unreasonable” for the mother to put charities before leaving property to her own child.
Probate lawyers believe this could have a significant impact on how wills are treated – legacies to charities, made in the absence of provision for children, for example, are likely to lead to least grounds for challenging a will and many more applications to dispute wills.
Whats’ more, according to the latest figures from the Ministry of Justice, record numbers of uk contested probate and disputed wills claims are heading to the courts. Given those cases actually reaching the court probably represent only a tiny fraction of such disputes, it’s clear that executor disputes and inheritance claims are highly likely to proliferate.
Why? The recession certainly didn’t help. Add that to the increasing rates of divorce, the subsequent trend in second and third families and the increase in personal mobility in the last 30 years, and you get a recipe for fragmented families. Add to the mix the public’s increasing taste for litigation and is hardly surprisingly one leading law firm estimated that in 2009 alone, there were more than 1200 bereaved spouses who were forced out of the former matrimonial home – by other family members making their own inheritance claim in the absence of a valid will.
Insurers are getting in on the act – perhaps it comes as no surprise that specialist “after the event” insurers, having come up with a contested probate claim a few years back, have seen a huge increase in take-up recently.