Contesting Wills

What do the following six categories of people have in common?
1. Your spouse or civil partner.
2. Your former spouse or civil partner.
3. A person who has lived with you as a partner for two years.
4. Your child.
5. A “child of the family” (step children etc).
6. A person being maintained by you immediately before your death.
Answer: They all have a statutory right to claim on your estate for “reasonable financial provision” under The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

Challenges to Wills under this legislation are becoming increasingly common. There has been an 83% increase in the number of families going to court to contest Wills recently. The High Court heard 178 disputes in 2014, compared to just 97 in 2013. With most cases being resolved before they get to this stage, these figures potentially represent the tip of the iceberg. Rising property prices and more complex family circumstances have been suggested as reasons for this, and with numbers expected to continue rising it is more important than ever to seek professional advice when making a Will.

One of the most widely reported recent cases was that of Heather Ilott, who has been awarded £164,000 by The Court of Appeal from the estate of her mother Melita Jackson, who had died in 2004 leaving her entire estate of almost £500,000 to three animal charities. The case had it’s complexities, and again highlights the importance of professional advice, particularly when your situation is not straight forward.