Have you made your New Forest will?
Beware of the potential for will and probate disputes from hastily made wills: Life Matters for September from Lester Aldridge
Making a will is in principle obviously the right thing to do, but hastily home made wills may bring their own pitfalls! An increase in will and probate disputes is to be expected in the new normal to which we are having to accustom ourselves for the long term. In this month's Life Matters for Lymington disputed tax, trusts and wills Partner, Victoria Jones explains the potential pitfalls which lie ahead because of the ways in which some of us are making wills in haste.
The key message is that it could be well worth talking through our wishes with an expert - free - now!
Anticipated increase in will and probate disputes
"Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, it was estimated that only around one third of the adults in England and Wales had made a will and that many people could therefore intestate (where legislation dictates how someone’s estate will be distributed after their death).
However, when the lockdown began in March 2020, there was a reported increase in the number of people making wills in England and Wales (over a 70% increase was suggested in some reports). That is understandable, given the concerns raised by the pandemic and people wishing to plan for the future.
However, whilst making a will is usually advisable and a positive step, there are now concerns about whether this apparent surge in will making could result in an increase in will and probate disputes in the future. The reasons for this might include:
- More people making ‘DIY’ wills during lockdown
- Some people not executing (signing and witnessing) their wills correctly
- Some people not following the new Government guidance for executing wills via live video link and through socially distanced methods. (You can find out more about this here:https://www.lesteraldridge.com/blog/covid-19-news/new-government-guidance-on-wills-witnessed-by-video-and-at-a-distance
- Some people not realising the potential impact of certain will clauses on their estate
- Vulnerable or isolated adults being coerced into making a will
- Someone not having the relevant mental capacity (known as testamentary capacity) required to make a will
Now that some lockdown and social distancing restrictions have eased, it is important for anyone who made or updated a will during lockdown to check that that it was executed using the correct procedure and to also consider whether or not the will is likely to challenged. This is because, if there are any issues with the will, it may be possible to remedy them.
It is also vital to consider whether any clauses in the will may prompt a claim being made against the estate. For example, under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975 (the “Inheritance Act”) if certain cohabitees, close relatives, spouses/civil partners, ex-spouses/ex-civil partners or financial dependants has been excluded from a will, they may be able to seek ‘reasonable financial provision’ from the estate. You can find out more information about this here: https://www.lesteraldridge.com/for-you/wills-trusts-estates-disputes/inheritance-act-claims.
The financial impact of the pandemic might also play a role in someone deciding whether or not to pursue a claim against an estate in the future. For example, if someone has lost their job, they may now require greater financial provision from an estate.
More people may also be more inclined to query the validity of a will in the future, given the potential impact upon physical and mental health which the pandemic and lockdown may have had.
Whilst, no-one knows exactly what the future holds, now might be a good time to consider the above points and also whether or not any further action is required."
The Disputed Wills Team at Lester Aldridge specialise in will, probate and trust disputes.
The Tax, Trusts and Wills Team at Lester Aldridge are experienced in tax and estate planning and would be happy to assist with any queries that you have. We are able to arrange appointments by Skype, Zoom or WhatsApp as you prefer.
- website: https://www.lesteraldridge.com/for-you/wills-trusts-estates-disputes/
- phone: 01202 786164
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Life Matters is a regular monthly feature on Lymington.com, which covers a wide range of legal subjects and is always written by one of the Lester Aldridge team. You can see a list of all published articles by clicking to the Lester Aldridge Solicitors webpage on Lymington.com here.
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Lester Aldridge Solicitors are based in London, Southampton and Bournemouth - where the office covering the New Forest is situated conveniently close to the main Bournemouth train station. Their specialist teams in the various fields of law will be happy to advise and assist you, starting with a completely free initial consultation during which you can decide whether you feel able to trust them with your confidential information. For more information please click here. Consultations are also available via virtual meetings : advice is available through phone, email, Skype and Zoom.