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Inheritance wars grip UK as more families fight over money and here’s the main reason | Personal Finance | Finance

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Almost four in 10 have had fallouts with siblings and other family members over who gets what, according to a new study from specialist will writers Farewill, produced for the Express.

With hundreds of thousands of pounds potentially at stake, inheritance disputes are mentally and financially draining, and risk leaving a poisonous family legacy. If they end up in court, legal fees can eat up bequests.

Farewill chief executive Dan Garrett said ever larger sums are now at stake, as baby boomers pass on their property and investments. “The over-50s now hold 70 percent of the country’s wealth, equivalent to more than £6trillion.”

Many younger family members are relying on an inheritance to buy a property of their own. “The expectation of intergenerational wealth transfer is higher than ever, yet many people relying on the prospect of an inheritance may face disappointment,” he said.

The rise in divorce and “blended families” is also driving the surge, with second and third marriages adding to the complexities.

Garrett said dementia is another major driver as disgruntled family members argue that a will was not properly drafted due to failing mental capacity, or claim the deceased was coerced into making changes.

The single biggest trigger for disputes is that wills are out of date, he added. “Nearly 15 million admit to never having updated their will, while a further 14.5 million say they haven’t updated their will for more than 10 years.”

The 1975 Inheritance Act allows children, spouses and dependants to claim a more favourable distribution of an estate if they believe reasonable provision was not made for them. “This has led to numerous contentious cases, with the burdensome legal process destroying family relationships, sometimes for good,” Garrett said.

Law Society of England and Wales president Nick Emmerson recommends updating your will at least every five years. Take time to talk to family members, to manage expectations. “Conversations around death and the transference of assets are hard, but the consequences of doing nothing are often more damaging.”

Another factor driving the rise in will disputes is that many people are going it alone and writing their own DIY wills.

Mistakes are easy, and if a will has not been signed or witnessed correctly, it could be declared invalid. In that case it will be treated as if you died intestate, having never made a will at all. Your assets will be left to your next of kin in a fixed order, decided by the government, which may not reflect your wishes.

Anthony Belcher, director of the Society of Will Writers, said it is safer to seek professional help than going it alone. “Whether you choose a will writer or solicitor, the outcome will be better than the DIY route, where problems typically don’t emerge until after the person who wrote it has died.”

This is an also an opportunity to take financial planning and inheritance tax advice, which may cost more money, but can pay for itself several times over by bringing huge tax savings.

Legal advice is also essential for those who wish to contest a will, said Matthew Morton, solicitor at Weightmans. “Solicitors can assess the strength of your case and guide you through the legal process.”

Contesting a will is a serious decision that should not be taken lightly, he added. “You must have valid reasons and strong evidence. This process can be emotionally and financially challenging, so it’s crucial to weigh the potential benefits against the costs.”

Typically, only interested parties, such as beneficiaries or close relatives, have the legal standing to contest a will, Morton said: “The goal is to ensure the deceased’s true intentions are respected, and achieve a fair distribution of their estate.”

Think very carefully before contesting a will because a lot more than money is at stake. An inheritance dispute could rip your family apart. Is that the legacy you’d like to leave?

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