A will is the only way for your wishes to be legally enforceable when you pass away. However, it’s becoming more common for families to dispute wills. So, what can you do to ensure your will is upheld?
In most cases, a will is followed, and families will respect the wishes of the deceased. But the possibility of someone contesting your will is something you should think about.
According to a report in iNews, the number of Inheritance Act claims increased by 72% in 2021. The Inheritance Act allows a court to make orders for the provision of a spouse, child, or other dependents from a deceased person’s estate.
In addition, the number of will disputes fought in the High Court in 2020 was 192. This figure compares to 128 in 2018.
While disputes represent only a small proportion of estates, they can be costly and stressful for your loved ones. If you’re worried that someone could dispute your wishes, taking steps now to minimise the chances can provide you with peace of mind and help ensure your estate is distributed how you’d like.
Here are three things you can do.
1. Talk to loved ones about your wishes
Some disputes occur due to misunderstandings when people are grieving. In these cases, a conversation with your loved ones now can make a difference.
It can be difficult to talk about passing away and what you’d like to happen to your assets when you do, but it’s an important conversation.
It allows you to explain your decisions and provide loved ones with an opportunity to ask questions. It means that when you pass away, they won’t be surprised by the contents of your will.
You may also want to write a letter of wishes. This document isn’t legally binding, but it can be used alongside your will to provide guidance and explain what you want in your own words.
2. Take care to avoid mistakes in your will
Someone can’t dispute your will simply because they don’t like the contents, they must have valid grounds for doing so.
One common reason is that the will is not valid, and this is often due to avoidable errors. For instance, if your will is not properly signed and witnessed, someone could challenge it.
While you can write your will yourself, seeking the support of a legal professional can minimise mistakes and provide you with peace of mind.
You may want to change your will in the future. You can do this either through a codicil, which makes an official alteration to your existing will, or by writing a new will. You should make sure alterations are clear and destroy any previous wills to avoid confusion and potential reasons for disputes.
3. Make it clear you understand your decisions and have the mental capacity to make them
Other reasons for contesting a will include that you didn’t understand the decisions you were making, that they were made under duress, or that you lacked the mental capacity to make them.
Maintaining clear records about your plans and speaking to people about them can be enough to show that you understand the contents of your will. As well as family, this may include professionals, such as a solicitor. Emails to your solicitor may demonstrate your wishes and that you fully understood the implications if a dispute arises.
If you’re worried that mental capacity may be used as a reason for contesting your will, obtaining the opinion of a qualified doctor, usually your GP, can help.
A trust could provide you with an alternative way to pass on wealth
A trust isn’t the right option for everyone, but it can provide you with an alternative way to pass on wealth if you’re worried about your will being disputed.
One of the reasons you may use a trust is that you can set out rules that must be followed by the trustee, who will manage it. This may include who will benefit from the assets held in a trust and when certain assets will be distributed.
A trust can also be an effective way to pass on wealth during your lifetime.
Trusts can be complex, and they may not be the right option for you, so it’s important to seek advice.
If you’d like help creating an estate plan, from understanding your assets to how you can pass on wealth while minimising disputes, please contact us.
Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.
Will writing and estate planning are not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.