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Rise in number of contested wills

Ministry of Justice figures show that there has been a steep rise in the number of wills being contested in court.

According to Ministry of Justice figures, the High Court heard 178 probate disputes in 2014; the highest level in England and Wales since 2007 and almost double the total of 97 in 2013.

It is reasonable to believe that the rising number of cases heard in the High Court do not fully show the extent of the problem as only a small number of disputes will reach the High Court due to the majority being settled beforehand.

The growth in the number of cases reaching court is thought to be as a consequence of complex family structures such as re-marriages, cohabitation and step-family members, as well as families living further apart. The result of this could be that channels of communication between family members may not be as clear as they once were, so sibling rivalries, resentments and arguments can be left unresolved for long periods. 

Some challenges to wills may be seen to be legitimate. The case last Summer of Ilott vs Jackson was described as a ‘landmark ruling’ where adult children could challenge their parents’ wills, despite the Inheritance (Provision for Dependents) Act 1975 having been around for many years and used in this case. Under the Inheritance Act it has always been possible for adult children to argue that reasonable provision has not been made for them.

Link: Ministry of Justice