Inheritance Disputes

Inheritance Disputes

Inheritance Disputes are in the news.  Besides the regular reports of cases that have gone to trial that appear in newspapers there have recently been three television programmes about Inheritance Disputes. The first was called “The Sixth Commandment”. This was a crime drama that appeared on television in July this year and was based on a real-life crime committed by Ben Field – who murdered two people and then tried to benefit under their Will.  Incidentally the Sixth Commandment is “Thou shalt not kill”.

The second programme to appear on television was called “The Inheritance” and was a fictional drama about an individual trying to benefit under the Wills of people he had killed. 

The third programme appeared on Channel 5 called “Inheritance Wars – who gets the money”.  These programmes simply reflect the modern interest in disputes about who gets what after someone has passed away.

Lots of lawyers advertise for work under the banner in “unfairly left out of a Will”.  We have to end that myth.  The law is crystal clear.  Just because someone has been unfairly left out of a Will it does not mean that they are entitled to make a claim – in England and Wales (unlike much of Europe) our citizens are subject to, what is known as, “testamentary freedom”.   This means that people can generally leave whatever they want to whoever they want.  In a recent case it was said that “the freedom of testation allowed by English law means that people can make a valid Will even if they are old or infirm or in receipt of help from whom they wish to benefit and even if the terms of the Will are hurtful, ungrateful or unfair to those whose legitimate expectations of testamentary benefit are disappointed”.  This is a profound starting point.  A Will cannot be challenged just because it is unfair.


So why are there so many inheritance disputes?

Inheritance Disputes can typically arise in one of three ways.

  • The Will is not a valid document – it doesn’t comply with the technical requirements of the Wills Act 1837 – for example for a Will to be valid there needs to be two witnesses.
  • The Will is invalid for some other reason – for example the person making it did not have “testamentary capacity” or was subject to undue influence.
  • A claim for reasonable provision can be made under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975

A claim for “reasonable financial provision” can only be made by particular classes of individuals for example a husband or wife, a civil partner, a child (even an adult child) or someone who is dependant on the person who died.  This means that, for example, a friend or neighbour could not generally make a claim even if they had been led to believe that they would be left something in a Will.

So, if, like an increasing number of people in this country you find yourself involved in an Inheritance Dispute – either as a claimant or as a defendant then we are here to help. 

We can get it sorted

It’s what we do. 

Call us.  It’s free to ask.



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