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Inheritance disputes on the rise in changing landscape

A recent report showing court cases involving inheritance disputes are increasing demonstrates a problem too few are tackling head on.

The Financial Times reported that just under 400 probate disputes were heard at the high court over the first nine months of 2023, which is more than double the number from seven years earlier in 2016.

It is a trend that has been going on for a very long time, but is becoming more notable in recent years, due to more than one factor.

It is also safe to say that whilst the number heard in the high court has risen there are certainly many more inheritance disputes that have never got that far but have still resulted in much distress not to mention delay and expense for all those involved in such battles.

The Court of Protection, which oversees disputes for those who lack mental capacity, has also seen a notable rise in related matters in recent years.

A huge rise in the values of properties appears to have really altered the financial landscape too.

Simply put, we are living in an era where the wealth divide between those who have owned property for decades and those who have not has widened.

In the South East, and especially in sought after areas like Staines, Spelthorne and Surrey this is especially prevalent.

Back 30-40 years ago, a young professional couple could expect to buy a nice home in the region and have a decent quality of life.

An average home in Staines is now in the region of £450,000, a figure out of reach for many except those given a helping hand by loved ones.

There are also more complex family dynamics with many people having more than one marriage, which is also part of the modern issue.

However, much of the acrimony and issues can be avoided with up to date professional drawn wills and also lasting powers of attorney, where people can appoint trusted loved ones to oversee their decisions regarding financial and health issues.

We always advise clients to look at wills every couple of years, as views can change on who to leave money and belongings to. Additionally, re-marriages and new relationships can also impact matters.

Another issue we see is cohabitees not benefitting from the estate of loved ones who pass away.

As we have said before, you need to ensure you have legal documents drawn up if you are not married but want to ensure the one left behind is in a good financial position.

We also urge more open discussion with families about how estates are to be divided, preventing unwelcome surprises.

Of course, in a complicated world disputes over estates will always exist, but it is our role as wills, probate and family law experts in Staines to offer the best advice we can to give our community greater great peace of mind.

If you have the slightest doubt about the state of your potential estate and the impact on those who will be left after your death, we urge you to give us a call.

Family legacy disputes are truly tragic and can ruin lives. Often, they can be easily avoided.

If you wish to talk wills, probate or trusts, we are here for you, please get in touch.