The rise of will and es­tate dis­putes

Derbyshire Life - - News -

The es­tates of the late Ge­orge Michael, Nel­son Man­dela and Jimi Hen­drix,

to name a few, all hit the head­lines be­cause they were dis­puted

Ge­orge Michael al­legedly did not make pro­vi­sion for his long term part­ner in his will. There is spec­u­la­tion that his part­ner will is­sue a claim against Ge­orge Michael’s es­tate in due course.

Nel­son Man­dela’s ex-wife, Win­nie Man­dela, did not feel that his will made ad­e­quate pro­vi­sion for her and made a claim for more.

Jimi Hen­drix did not leave a will de­spite his ex­ten­sive wealth, which ul­ti­mately led to a 13 year bat­tle be­tween his sib­lings over how his es­tate should be di­vided.

In­her­i­tance re­lated claims are on the rise. The In­de­pen­dent news­pa­per re­ported in 2013 that there had been a 700% in­crease in pro­bate claims is­sued in the High Court over a five year pe­riod, and in 2016 and 2017 is­sued pro­bate claims in­creased fur­ther still.

The in­crease in in­her­i­tance dis­putes can be at­trib­uted to a num­ber of fac­tors in­clud­ing: • A de­cline of the nu­clear fam­ily;

• More com­plex fam­ily struc­tures; • Peo­ple are liv­ing longer and more peo­ple are suf­fer­ing from de­men­tia; and Peo­ple have greater aware­ness of what they can dis­pute.

As can be seen from the ex­am­ples of celebrity es­tates, a will can be con­tested (or a claim made against an es­tate) for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons. The most com­mon ex­am­ples we come across are:

• Rel­a­tives will of­ten ques­tion a de­ceased’s men­tal ca­pac­ity if there is an un­usual or out of char­ac­ter legacy left in the will. Like­wise if the de­ceased was suf­fer­ing from de­men­tia or seemed to be suf­fer­ing from de­men­tia around the time the will was cre­ated.

A valid will needs to be ex­e­cuted in a very par­tic­u­lar way. If any of the for­mal­i­ties are not com­plied with it might be deemed in­valid. A sig­na­ture may have been forged, the will may have been fraud­u­lently al­tered or some­one may have poi­soned the de­ceased’s mind against a po­ten­tial ben­e­fi­ciary so as to en­sure the de­ceased did not make pro­vi­sion in their will for the them. A dis­ap­pointed ben­e­fi­ciary may want to chal­lenge a will if they be­lieve that the per­son who made the will was un­duly in­flu­enced, co­erced or put un­der duress to make the will on the terms they did. It may be pos­si­ble to have the will rec­ti­fied in this in­stance, or if that is not pos­si­ble, then there may be a claim for pro­fes­sional neg­li­gence against the lawyer. A dis­ap­pointed ben­e­fi­ciary might want to con­sider is­su­ing a claim to try to en­force a prom­ise that was made to them by the de­ceased. If a ben­e­fi­ciary has been ex­cluded from a will, or they re­ceive a gift that was not as ex­pected they may be able to make a claim un­der the In­her­i­tance Act for ‘rea­son­able fi­nan­cial pro­vi­sion’, to seek a share (or greater share) of a de­ceased’s es­tate. A court has very wide dis­cre­tion in such claims and the or­ders it can make can be var­ied.

Lorna True­man, Part­ner

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