The number of legal challenges being mounted against wills has remained high for three years, fuelled by the rising prevalence of dementia
An ageing population and increasingly complex family structures saw 12,287 wills prevented from being enacted last year, data Wilsons Solicitors has revealed.
The legal firm found that the biggest driving force behind this high number of blocked wills was sibling rivalry, although multiple marriages and greater distances between family members were also named as contributing factors.
Challenges were commonly triggered by parents excluding one or more children from the will, or favouring one child over another. There have also been a rising number of cases where the deceased has left part of their estate to a carer.
Figures have remained high in recent years, with 11,735 challenges recorded in 2014 and 14,167 in 2015. According to Wilsons, the increasing prevalence of dementia has led to more claims that the deceased was incapable of making a will, leaving people’s final wishes more open to being challenged.
If a beneficiary or former beneficiary wants to challenge a will, they can request that a ‘caveat’ is lodged against it, which prevents probate being granted for up to six months.
‘More often than not the person objecting to a will has been hurt both financially and emotionally by its contents – and the most emotionally charged cases tend to be those between siblings,’ Charlotte Watts, partner at Wilsons, explains.
She adds: ‘A person’s will tends to be a reflection of the relationships they held during their lifetime. This can be very hard for some children to process if they had fallen out with their parent, for example, or if they had always believed their sibling was favoured and the will supports this.’
Watts notes that only a ‘very small proportion’ of will challenges result in a court battle.
‘In most cases, a settlement is reached between the beneficiaries before the case reaches trial, usually with the help of lawyers,’ she adds.