Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Inheritance disputes rise as families go to war over estates

The number of contested wills are at an all-time high as house prices rise and competing claims are driven by complex family structures. 

In England and Wales, more people are taking legal action and attempting to claim bigger shares of estates, which is driving the large number of disputes over inheritance. 

In 2019, the number of contested wills heard at the High Court reached 188 cases, which is a 47 percent increase from 2018. These numbers do not even include the large number of disputes that are being settled out of court or abandoned before it reaches the court. 

As the prices of housing rises in the UK, litigation is becoming more popular because the growing proportion of the estates are worth contesting. Further, cohabitation and multiple marriages are resulting in complex family structures, which helps drive the number of claims to an estate, which makes disputes more likely to happen. 

Mr. Lindley, an attorney for Boodle Hatfield, stated, "One factor driving the surge in cases is the fact that unmarried couples who live together are not automatically entitled to a share of the other’s estate unless the deceased has made a will in their favour, which can lead to them pursuing a claim in court in order to inherit from their deceased partner."

Also, the economic effects of Covid-19 have been a driving force for litigation and claims for shares of estates. 

To sum up, the bigger the family web, the higher the chance of litigation and disputes over shares estates. 

See, Lucy Warwick-Ching, Inheritance disputes rise as families go to war over estates, Financial Times, July 16, 2020.

Special thanks to Joel C. Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.


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