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The Rise in Inheritance Disputes

View profile for David Richards
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The Financial Times has published an article which sets out the significant increase in probate disputes that has occurred between 2016 and 2023. In the first nine months of 2023 there were almost 390 probate disputes which is more than double than in the same period in 2016.

We believe that one of the reasons there has been a significant increase in probate and Will disputes is largely due to rules being ignored and Wills being created and signed incorrectly during COVID and lockdown. So this could be the reason that the court is seeing increased applications.

The Financial Times article correctly sets out the issues that exist for potential litigants and the importance of bearing in mind how legal costs can significantly impact what potential beneficiaries will receive in respect of a dispute concerning a deceased’s estate.

However, we must also keep in mind the fact that Losing someone you care about and love can provoke a multitude of emotions.  Grief is a very personal thing and although it might invite similar emotions amongst those left behind, individual responses to those emotions can be many and varied. 

The loss of a loved one is inevitably tragic; there may have been time to prepare for the loss of a loved one, offering opportunities to say all the things you wanted to say. There may have been no warning, leaving family and friends traumatised and shocked and at a loss about how to manage their responses. 

In certain circumstances there might be the hope that allocation of blame might subdue some of the feelings of loss.  A sense of powerlessness and emotional pain will usually be part of the grief process. 

Whilst trying to manage the responses provoked by a bereavement, family and friends also have to manage the practicalities associated with a loss. This can be enormously challenging  and potentially the last thing you want to think about.  Alongside the emptying of a home and deciding how to dispose of the very personal items of a loved one, might come the shock of an unexpected Will bequest. As most of those affected by the bereavement will already be feeling understandably fragile and sensitive, any other unexpected issues might have a significant effect. 

Brethertons offer the time and space to sensitively manage responses to bequests and would encourage the grieving to come forward and speak with them about their concerns as soon as possible.  

Being in a place of bitterness and anger regarding your loved one's bequests can inhibit recovery. Please do take that opportunity, difficult though it is, to take some legal advice, which when delivered in a compassionate way by Bretherton’s team, will hopefully find a way forward that will not accentuate any family rifts and assist those grieving to take next steps to recover from their loss. 

If you have any concerns in respect of a deceased’s Will. Either because you believe that there are issues in the circumstances within which the Will was drafted or someone is threatening to make a claim against an estate and you believe the allegations being made are unjust we can assist in advising you on the best way forward.

If you do have any concerns please contact David Richards – our Partner who specialises in this area of law and who will be happy to help and advise you with your concerns.