Posted by Mike Muston, Senior Associate
Modern families mean modern problems for inheritance
The Sunday Telegraph recently reported a rise in inheritance disputes due to increasing numbers of couples who choose to cohabit without marrying. The diverse range of family relationships seen now have contributed to a significant increase in inheritance disputes over the last 10 years. Problems that arise highlight the importance of making a Will and organising your affairs.
A common theme often running through inheritance disputes is the absence of a Will. The government is currently considering measures to increase the rights of cohabiting couples, but as the law currently stands, a cohabiting partner will not automatically have the right to receive an inheritance, regardless of the length of their cohabitation. This can lead to situations where the legal next of kin might be a family member who has not seen the deceased person for many years.
While the cohabiting partner may be entitled to make a claim for financial provision from their loved one’s estate, they will probably become involved in a potentially lengthy and expensive legal battle. This could be avoided by taking the time to set out your wishes in what may be a relatively simple Will document.
However, there are situations where having a Will doesn’t completely solve these problems. Disputes are common when new spouses inherit rather than the children from a previous relationship. A dispute may not necessarily be avoided because there is a Will, but a Will showing your wishes may help the situation. Whatever happens, it is still better to make a Will and have some control over whom you wish to inherit from your estate.
As reported by the BBC today, many people still put off making their Will, perhaps because they don’t like to think about this rather morbid subject or because they believe it’s not an issue they need to think about for many years. This is true for many people, but we frequently see cases which show that, for the sake of your loved ones, it is probably not worth taking this risk.
If you would like advice about making a Will or you are currently facing an inheritance dispute, contact our Inheritance & Trust Disputes team on 0800 923 2070 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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