It’s increasingly common for families to argue about Wills. Relatives, partners, and professional caregivers are having ore disagreements about bequests. 
The values of people’s estates are increasing and rates of dementia rising. Both of these things mean more disputes about inheritance when someone dies. 
Families argue about Wills
Court cases concerning Wills have gone up by over 34% in the last five years and by more than 140% in the past decade. Recent research found that all sorts of inheritance disputes have increased by 50% in the last five years. Disagreements often involve estates of high value where wealth is unevenly distributed between generations. However, it’s difficult to achieve a successful claim, often based on the validity of the Will. 
Here are the top four reasons why families argue and can even end up in court to contest a Will


When an estate is valuable and the cost of living is increasing, families think there is something worth fighting for. Out of court settlements can often resolve disputes concerning smaller sums. So, if your estate is valuable it’s worth giving careful thought to inheritance to minimise the risk of disputes. 
For example, it’s difficult to share physical assets like your home amongst family members, especially if someone continues living there. If you want your children to share it, the one in residence might need a mortgage to pay the others. Otherwise, the alternative is to sell the home and divide the proceeds. 

Business ownership 

If you have a working business, such as a farm, sharing assets can be even more challenging. Often, a family business might pass on to one person to keep it running after the owner’s death. However, disputes can quickly arise if someone expects to inherit all or part of a business. They might even work in the business for years only to find they aren’t included in the Will. If they have good foundations for believing they will inherit, this might be enforceable in court. Evidence could include working for little or no salary or renovating property, for example. 


Sometimes, family members of the same generation disagree with the distribution of an estate. Disputes can arise over sharing assets amongst several brothers and sisters or if there’s an extended or merged family. 


Ex-partners and the children of a surviving parent can find themselves in court. For example, in one case a mother had pension assets in her ex-husband’s business. She transferred them before her death because she wanted them to go to her children and not her ex-husband. Due to unresolved conflicts following the divorce her children found themselves involved in a court case with HMRC. 

Avoiding conflicts about inheritance 

Professionals argue stronger laws are needed to reduce the potential for financial abuse. Options might include pre-Will conversations about how to divide assets to avoid future disputes. 
Clear communication within your family to manage people’s expectations is certainly the best way to avoid disputes. Explaining your intentions and expectations reduces stress and worry that could escalate into an argument after your death. 
Suddenly changing your Will can lead to confusion that might mean the revised version is challenged in court. This could be on the grounds of undue influence or that you lacked capacity to make the changes. If you plan to change your Will explain your decisions in advance to those affected. 
Children should also have conversations with their parents about their wishes and intentions. Even if you don’t want to, as a parent you should speak openly about your wishes before your death. This will help avoid situations where the courts become involved. 
Do you need to write a Will or update one? I am happy to give you advice on how to minimise disputes about your wishes.  
Tagged as: Executors, property, Wills
Share this post:
Our site uses cookies. For more information, see our cookie policy. Accept cookies and close
Reject cookies Manage settings