Number of inheritance disputes has doubled in the last decade

Dafferns Wealth

More and more people are finding themselves in legal disputes with loved ones over inheritances, new figures have revealed.

According to the Ministry of Justice, 80 inheritance disputes went in front of judges in 2012.

However, this figure had risen to 145 by 2017, and in 2021/22, it stood at 195 – more than double the number recorded a decade earlier.

And that’s before you take into account the inheritance disputes that don’t make it as far as a courtroom, but might still be costly and time-consuming to resolve.

So what’s fuelling this massive increase?

Well, there are many factors in play here, not least the fact that property-rich baby boomers are starting to pass away.

That means their children and grandchildren can find themselves with considerable inheritances, based on the fact that their deceased relative’s house soared in value throughout their lifetime.

We must also consider the fact that living costs have soared over the last few years, in which case, many beneficiaries might feel they need or deserve a larger share of an estate.

Another factor behind the rising number of disputes is that the make-up of households and family units is evolving and becoming much more complex.

For example, we’re seeing more couples cohabiting without getting married.

We also have more people getting married for the second time, including couples where both spouses have children from previous relationships. That can often lead to children being disinherited by their biological parent in favour of a new spouse or step-siblings.

The size of the ageing population could be another element at play, as we currently have a growing number of people passing away with dementia. In fact, data from the Office for National Statistics shows that dementia and Alzheimer’s disease were the leading causes of death in 2022.

As a result, many family members who didn’t get what they wanted or expected from an inheritance are arguing that their loved one’s will wasn’t properly drawn up.

We also shouldn’t ignore the fact that many families are getting into inheritance disputes simply because the will – as written – isn’t clear enough.

It could be poorly written or even out of date, so many family members end up being overlooked and people who might not have otherwise received a share of the estate, such as an ex-partner, can be bequeathed a hefty sum.

And, of course, many people will simply not have a will in place at all, which means there is no legally binding document stating how the deceased person’s assets should be shared.

You don’t want your family and loved ones to end up in a lengthy, expensive and emotionally draining legal dispute with each other.

So it’s really important to take steps to make sure this doesn’t happen.

Make sure you have a clear, legally binding and up-to-date will in place, just in case the worst happens, and seek professional legal advice so you can be sure it can withstand any challenges.

And don’t forget that your will isn’t something that’s set in stone. If your circumstances change in any way, you can revise it at any time, so you can be sure it reflects your current situation and wishes.

Doing this now could save your family lots of heartache and financial difficulties further down the line, and give you the peace of mind that your wishes will be carried out after you pass away, so don’t delay and get a will drawn up.

If you want advice on drawing up a will and planning your inheritance, speaking to a financial planner with expertise in this field would be very useful.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our friendly team of specialists so you can future-proof your estate.