Litigation and Dispute Resolution
Inheritance disputes — examples
Recent years have seen a marked increase in disputes over inheritance. Often, such disputes could have been avoided had the relevant parties taken steps and legal advice to ensure that their wishes were fulfilled upon their death.
Examples of situations where disputes may arise
- Where there is a dispute as to whether a will is valid on the basis that it has not been properly drawn up, signed and witnessed (“homemade” wills in particular can lead to problems).
- Where the person who made the will (“the testator”) did not have the mental capacity required by law to make that will.
- Where it is alleged that a testator’s true wishes are not reflected by his or her will because the testator was influenced by a third party.
- Where there is a valid will, but certain categories of people have not benefited from that will to the extent that they would have hoped. Such persons may sometimes have a successful legal argument that reasonable financial provision should be made for them by the court. Such categories of people would include the deceased’s unmarried partner or his children. The concept of “reasonable financial provision” can also assist in an intestacy situation. For example, on an intestacy, an unmarried surviving partner would on the face of it inherit nothing from the deceased’s estate. Our Contentious Probate Department can advise whether the surviving partner may still be able to have a claim on the deceased’s assets on the basis of “reasonable financial provision”.
- In certain circumstances, the operation of a will/the intestacy rules can be varied if it can be established that there was an agreement with the deceased that a certain party would benefit from the deceased’s assets. That agreement may be enforceable even where it has not been formally recorded.