The Independent reported recently that there has been a 700% increase in High Court actions challenging wills over the last five years, attributed significantly to changing family patterns.
With the increase in divorced rates and the rise in blended families, cases where relatives feel usurped or pushed out are the norm. The case of Sir Peter Ustinov’s estate is a good example of what can go pear shaped. Despite marrying and divorcing three times, he didn’t update his will for 36 years, causing a Swedish Court to revoke the will and leaving his adult children totally unaccounted. It has never been more important to keep your Will up to date and dare we say it to those who have not made a Will, to make one.
So what if you are not happy with what you have been left in a Will or perhaps left nothing at all? Under the Inheritance Act of 1975, a Will can be contested if reasonable provision has not been made for spouse and dependent children. However, this should not be relied on as it can be a lengthy and costly procedure that can be easily avoided by maintaining a Will. In the case of Sir Peter Ustinov, it’s speculated that any inheritance has been spent through court costs as family claims to his estate remain unresolved.
Beyond any doubt, the best course of action to take when it comes to dividing up your personal estate is to plan ahead. From time to time you will need to adjust your Will to account for any new children or step-children that you would like to include, to reflect changing relationships and to cover any significant growth or gain in your own estate so that your assets are properly accounted for and distributed.
At The Law House, we understand that often death can be difficult to plan for, particularly with changing family structures, but we can help with comprehensive advice and guidance, whatever your family set-up.
To minimise disputes and potential challenges to your Will, you may wish to talk to those who you have named, and explain why you have chosen to do so. We can help support you through what can be difficult conversations, but by explaining the choices you have made to a loved one, potentially disputes can be resolved before they arise.
To speak to one of our Wills, trusts and probate experts about how we can help you update an existing Will or make a Will that comprehensively covers your current circumstances with scope for development should your situation change, please contact a member of our team on 020 8956 2655 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.