Will Disputes On The Rise

Will and probate dispute

One of the most stressful situations after a loved one has passed away is going through what they left behind. A Will is always a good idea to help make the process more simple and efficient as it sets out the last wishes of the deceased. It can however, be particularly painful if the Will created is not amended or updated as that persons relationships change, potentially leaving new people or family out of the Will.  

Most commonly in a Will, a deceased chooses to pass their money and assets down to their closest family members. In recent years we have seen a boost in the housing market with property prices increasing, meaning that the values of estates are much higher. The latest trend shows that more and more elderly people are bypassing their children and naming their grandchildren as the main beneficiaries.  

We have seen recently that one of the main issues people are having is forgetting to update their Will as they get older. Circumstances and relationships change with time so to avoid any potential problems or legal implications it is incredibly important to amend the Will whenever there is a change in circumstances.

The number of disputed cases brought before the courts has increased from 11,735 in 2014 to 14,167 the following year. This figure is likely to increase due the so called ‘wealth mountain’ that is expected to be passed on in the future. 

The Legal Implications

Some legal grounds why a will may be disputed may include: 


  • Has the will been validly constructed and signed? If the wording is not clear on some of the gifts then the Will may be valid but a specific gift fail.
  • Did the deceased have capacity?
  • Was the deceased subjected to any undue influence?

Challenges regardless of validity

  • Inheritance Act claims i.e. did the Will make reasonable financial provision?
  • Proprietary estoppel. Did the deceased promise to leave something to someone, who in return has acted on that promise and then not received it under the terms of the Will?

A recent case study of a dispute without a will came to an end last month after 13 years. A case last month which granted Heather Ilott £163,000 of her mother’s estate had been overturned in the high court. The judgement was responding to a court of appeal ruling to increase the sum a county court granted her on the grounds that her mother had acted in an “unreasonable, capricious and harsh” way towards her.

The amount she will now receive is just £50,000 of the estate instead of the £163,000 she had appealed for. The mother and daughter had fallen out and the mother passed on all of her £500,000 estate to three charities and Heather was left out of the will. The case has been ongoing since Melita Jackson died in 2004 and was wrapped up last month. Ilott made an application under the Inheritance Act 1975 for “reasonable financial provision” from her mother’s estate.

"There can be strict time limits in which to challenge a Will or seek reasonable financial provision from an estate.  We would suggest that you do not delay in seeking legal advice".

Emma Cornell is head of our Dispute resolution team, dealing with a wide range of personal business disputes ranging from Will, trust and probate disputes to criminal and personal injury. Emma brings extensive and varied experience, including having worked on numerous contested probate cases and general litigation cases that progressed to Appeal at the High Court




How can we help 

If you are in need of either writing or amending a will, our Wills, Probate and Trusts team can assist with a variety of different options to help you through the process clearly and efficiently.

If you are unsure if you have a case to dispute a will our dispute team can help you understand if and what you are entitled to and fight to get you  the desired result.


About Taylor Bracewell

Taylor Bracewell operates from offices in Thorne Road and Ten Pound Walk in Doncaster and Fountain Precinct in Sheffield. Specialist areas are: Family Law, Business Law, Personal Law (including Wills, Probate, Trusts and Conveyancing), Dispute Resolution, HR & Employment Law, Charity Law.

You can contact us at hello@taylorbracewell.co.uk or call us on 01302 341 414 in Doncaster or 0114 272 1884 in Sheffield.

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