Common inheritance disputes revealed: millions of Brits prepared to contest loved ones' wills in court

Published by Stephen Little on 21 February 2019.
Last updated on 21 February 2019

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Millions of Brits would be prepared to contest a loved one's will if they were unhappy with it, new research reveals.

Over 12.6 million people would be prepared to go to court to dispute a will of a family member if they disagreed with the division of their estate, according to Direct Line Life Insurance research.  

Southampton residents (31%) are most likely to ignore the wishes of a loved one if they felt they were being unfairly excluded from their will and then contest it in court, followed by those living in London (29%) and Norwich (29%).

Direct Line says that its analysis of figures from by HM Courts and Tribunals Service shows the number of disputes regarding applications for probate increased by an estimated 6% in 2018.

Percentage of residents that would contest a loved one's will
City Percentage of residents that are willing to contest their parent's will Percentage of residents that are willing to contest their partner's will Percentage of residents that would contest a loved one's will
London 21% 12% 29%
Southampton 20% 12% 31%
Norwich 19% 18% 29%
Nottingham 19% 9% 20%
Cardiff 17% 7% 25%
Manchester 15% 12% 22%
Liverpool 14% 15% 21%
Bristol 13% 15% 21%
Leeds 13% 13% 21%
Glasgow 12% 3% 15%
Newcastle 12% 17% 23%
Birmingham 11% 11% 26%
Plymouth 11% 15% 24%
Brighton 10% 16% 26%
Edinburgh 9% 8% 20%
Belfast 5% 9% 17%
Sheffield 5% 1% 11%

Source: Direct Line Life Insurance

With each applicant attempting to stop a probate application entering a caveat costing £20 each, Brits are spending in excess of £160,000 a year on this process excluding the cost of any legal fees. 

In 2017, there were 8,159 caveats registered to block a grant of probate.

Direct Line says people are registering caveats for such concerns as whether the will is legal, whether the deceased was of sound mind or as a result of disputes over who applied for a grant of probate.

Separate research from Direct Line found that most law professionals say the most common reason for contesting a will in the UK is on the grounds of undue influence, where the deceased was forced to sign a will or unreasonable pressure was placed upon them.

However, according to legal experts, contesting wills on the grounds of undue influence are the least successful petitions as the burden of proof is high, and it falls on the person challenging the will to prove undue influence.

Other grounds for contesting include testamentary capacity, where the mental and legal ability of a person to make or alter their will is challenged.

Rectification and construction claims are where a clerical error was made in the drafting of the will or the person drafting it failed to reflect the intentions of the deceased.

Jane Morgan, business manager at Direct Line Life Insurance, says: “While our research reveals people are increasingly contesting wills, everyone has the right to choose how they’d like to distribute their assets, even if it seems unusual or excludes even the closest family members.

“People can be surprised and hurt by the contents of a will, so people may wish to discuss with beneficiaries and those that might think they would inherit, how they plan to distribute their assets. 

"Those who do wish to leave an additional provision beyond the assets in their estate should consider investing in a life insurance policy, as it can offer additional financial support for loved ones when someone passes away.” 

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