THE number of inheritance disputes between family members has rocketed, as people opt to use do-it-yourself will-writing services in ever-increasing numbers.
The High Court is getting increasingly clogged with cases of contested probate – probate being the legal process for “proving” a will and its acceptance as a valid public document – which have leaped by more than 60 per cent in just two years.
This wave of costly probate disputes sounds another warning bell about the future of DIY wills, especially with the complexity of modern family structures and the scale of the financial assets involved.
In particular, it begs the question whether they are fit-for-purpose when it comes to ensuring savings and assets, such as a home, are distributed according to a person’s final wishes.
Many of the probate dispute cases lodged at the High Court are as a result of people penning their own wills that are littered with mistakes and omissions.
Disputes can also arise if people’s circumstances change, as many DIY wills cannot accommodate this.
And if strict witnessing rules are not followed to the letter, the document could be deemed invalid. For example, if a beneficiary witnesses the will, this would make their gift invalid.
Latest figures have revealed that there were 368 disputes about probate in the High Court last year.
This compares to just 282 in 2017, and 227 the year before.
Low-cost DIY kits are advertised online for as little as £9.99, yet writing a will can be a legal minefield.
As families are finding out to their cost, a simple mistake often means paying a far higher price in the end – whether it ultimately ends up as a family dispute in the High Court or not.
When using a solicitor to guide you through the complexities and around the pitfalls of preparing a will, it’s important that the one you use, like Milners, is accredited by the Law Society.
As well as solicitors, other providers will claim to offer will-writing services. However, before using one and for ultimate peace of mind, ensure it is governed by a regulatory body, such as the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority.
Should you have any questions or concerns regarding wills, trusts and probate, or any other inheritance-related issues, such as probate disputes, please do not hesitate to contact this article’s author, solicitor Jessica Savage, a fully qualified member of the Society of Trusts and Estate Practitioners (STEP), here at Milners on 0113 245 0852 or email us at hello@milnerslaw.