The Ministry of Justice has published figures that show a 47% increase, on the previous year, of Wills being contested.
Recent years have seen a large increase in house prices that have served to drive up personal wealth. This, combined with evermore complex family structures as a result of separations and divorces, are a big contributing factor for the increase.
An estranged spouse may inherit a significant portion of an estate if a divorce has never been finalised – even if the marriage ended, in practical terms, decades earlier. A co-habitee / new partner will often have to bring a claim under the ‘Inheritance (Provisions for Family & Dependants) Act 1975.
Co-habitees / partners who face being made homeless when their partner dies intestate (without a Will in place) is a common reason for people seeking legal assistance. It is often only when someone dies that their partner learns that they will not be provided for from the estate under a Will, or that intestacy rules dictate that they are not entitled to what they believe should receive.
The following simple steps would help avoid future challanges:
- Everyone, with assets (a property, investments, savings and possessions) – as well as dependents / children should put a Will in place as soon as possible.
- If you are co-habiting with a partner (not married) – then you both need to have a Will in place; particularly if you have dependants. Remember, there is no such thing as ‘Common Law Wife or Husband’ entitlements to an estate; regardless of how long you might have lived together.
- You need to ‘re-visit’ your Will at least every 5 years because of life changes, house moves and property / asset values.
- As soon as you marry or divorce, you need to formulate a new Will. Remember that any existing Will is ‘null and void’ once you marry
- The details matter! Any outstanding matters such as financial paperwork – especially paperwork to do with divorces, needs to be finalised as soon as you are able to do so since we do not always know when our time will come.
- Make your Will intentions and wishes known to your family and those close to you to prevent any misunderstandings after you have passed away.
- Be aware of the 7 year rule regarding ‘Gifts’ to family, friends and loved ones since this too can have a bearing on how soon you execute your Will, and how much people will receive and how much Inheritance Tax is liable.
Dunham McCarthy can help you with any aspects of estate planning, in order that you can formulate a truly effective Will.