If you are then you’re certainly not alone. Google terms relating to challenging Wills generate 13,000+ Google searches every month. According to the Independent newspaper the number of challenges over the past five years has gone up by a huge 700%. So, why are more Wills being challenged?
Complex family structures – divorce rates are rising, as are cohabitation situations. Family structures are less clear, which often means there is a much wider pool of potential claimants.
The consequences of living longer – life expectancy for men is now at around 80, while for women it’s approximately 83. The longer we live, the greater the chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease or vascular dementia (over 65 this risk doubles every five years). Mental capacity provides potential grounds for challenging a Will.
The value of property – there are two reasons why high property values have an impact on the number of people challenging Wills. The first is that property ownership means there is more at stake. A property that may have been purchased for five figures decades ago is likely to be easily worth six figures on death. Secondly, high property values make purchasing unaffordable for many of the generations coming up behind. Inheriting a property, or enough of a share to fund a purchase, might be the only option for getting onto the housing ladder.
What are the grounds for challenging a Will?
There are a number of grounds on which a Will could potentially be challenged:
- A deathbed gift is not recorded in the Will
- The Deceased should have made reasonable financial provision for you in a Will but did not
- There is no Will and intestacy excludes you
- The Will was made when the Deceased did not have mental capacity
- The Will contains a mistake or ambiguity
- There may have been some fraud involved in the making of the Will
- It’s unlikely that the Deceased knew about, or understood, the contents of the Will when they signed it
- The Deceased owed you money
How to prevent your Will from being challenged
You can’t guarantee that a Will you make will not end up in court but you can take some steps to avoid it:
- Don’t use a DIY Will – engaging a solicitor is worth the money; DIY Wills are more likely to give rise to more issues and therefore more scope for a challenge to be made.
- Include a Letter of Wishes – this should explain why certain decisions were made and will give the courts a good reason not to allow a challenge.
- Take some time choosing witnesses – are those who witnessed your Will reliable? Will they be able to stand up for your wishes in court?
- Make sure your Will reflects your life now – changes to relationship status, living arrangements and parent status need to be filtered into your final wishes.