Steep rise in Estates: The Growing Risk of Inheritance Disputes

Figures released by HM Revenue & Customs have revealed that the number of deceased estates worth £1 million or more has risen by over one-third in five years.

In 2013-14, there were 8,340 estates worth over a million. However, in 2018-19 the number stood at 11,210. This rise is likely to have been fuelled in part by house price growth. More than half a million UK homes are now estimated to be worth in excess of £1 million.

The risks of leaving a large estate

Along with an increase in the number of larger estates, there has also been an increase in disputes. The High Court has heard over 2,300 contentious probate cases over the past decade. In 2020 alone, over 10,000 caveats were entered to try and prevent Grants of Probate or Letters of Administration from being issued. This is turn would delay the winding-up of an estate after someone’s death.

The risk of disagreements arising after a death can be stronger in certain circumstances, including the following:

  • A complex family structure, such as a remarriage and children from more than one relationship
  • An estate with a fairly high value, although many disputes still arise over more modest inheritances
  • An unclear or ambiguous Will, perhaps because it was a DIY Will
  • The deceased left no Will. Family members have different opinions as to what their wishes would have been
  • Where someone has not been left anything but believes they should have been
  • An individual relied on the deceased to support them and they have not been left enough for their continued support
  • Where someone believes they were promised something by the deceased, but they do not receive this in the Will
Protecting your loved ones for the future

The best way to avoid disagreements is to speak to an expert Will writer about exactly what you would like to happen after your death. Discuss how you would like to provide for your loved ones and protect your assets. They will be able to point out any potential pitfalls and ensure that a robust Will is drawn up reducing the risk of misunderstandings.

They can also suggest ways of safeguarding your estate to prevent it from being spent where you would not want. For example, by leaving your spouse or partner a life interest in your portion of a shared home. By doing this you can ensure that once they no longer live there, your share can be passed to your choice of beneficiaries, such as your children. Without this provision, there is a risk that your share could be lost. For example, by ultimately being left to someone else or through bad investment or because it is used for care home fees. With the continuing rise in the value of estates, ensuring your Will is clear and protects your assets is more important than ever. If a dispute arises, it can drain an estate of assets as well as cause family rifts.

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