Most of us would like to think that upon our death, our loved ones will be provided for adequately. To that end many people make a Will, naming their beneficiaries and detailing what is to pass to each.
Disputes, however, are becoming more common even when a Will is in place. Research carried out by Direct Line Group in 2019 showed that as many as 24% of those surveyed would be prepared to contest a Will if they felt they had been treated unfairly.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the most common causes of inheritance disputes and what can be done to avoid them.
If there is no Will, the rules of intestacy apply to the distribution of a decedent’s estate. Contrary to popular belief, these rules do not provide for common law partners, leading to them to lose out on any inheritance.
Similarly, if a decedent without a Will left two children behind, their estate would automatically be split 50/50 between both. If one was estranged for decades, however, the other child may dispute their right to any inheritance.
In these cases, the best way to avoid a dispute would be to make a Will that clearly defines how your estate is to be distributed upon your death, and to keep it updated according to your family circumstances.
Being left out of a Will
Under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, an individual can apply to be included in a deceased relative’s Will, depending on their situation and relationship with the deceased. Adult children, for example, may wish to contest the Will of a parent if they believe it does not provide for them fairly. This could be done on the grounds of a lack of testamentary capacity, or heavy influence from another party over the creation of the Will.
Where a relative is left out of a Will, the case is likely to go to court, and the person raising the dispute should seek legal advice.
These days it’s normal for families to include half siblings and step siblings. In cases where property is jointly owned by a married couple who each have children outside of their marriage, who inherits depends on which spouse dies first.
For example, Mr Jones is married to Mrs Jones. Mr Jones has a son, Ben, from a previous relationship and Mrs Jones has a daughter, Emma, from a previous relationship. Mr Jones dies and the couple’s home passes to Mrs Jones. Mrs Jones then dies and the property passes to Emma. Ben may feel that he has some right to the property and could choose to dispute the inheritance.
In the case of jointly owned property, the owners can choose to become ‘tenants in common’, which means they own different shares of the property. Upon Mr Jones’ death, his share of the home would not then have passed automatically to Mrs Jones, and could have been left in his Will to Ben.
If you need help with estate planning, it’s best to seek help from a reputable Kent tax advisor before making your Will, so that you can pass on as much as possible to your beneficiaries and minimise their Inheritance Tax liability. If you require assistance with administering an estate, you can engage a Kent accountant for Probate services to help.