It is always good practice to have a will and to ensure that it is both up to date, available and valid thus ensuring that your estate will pass to the named beneficiaries and your heirs will be able to enjoy their inheritance.

But even with a will in place there can be disputes and there are several grounds under which a will can be disputed.

Figures from 2010 suggest that the number of court cases where people believe they should have been beneficiaries and therefore contest a will has risen 38% in a year, and more than 100% since 2006. Although the majority of cases are settled out of court there are number of reasons why contesting a will in court is becoming more popular for the potential heirs.

Family structures

Family structures have become more and more complicated. More children are born out of wedlock, fewer couples are marrying, the divorce rate is higher than it used to be, more people are choosing to live in single parent families and there are more same sex couples. The complications of these structures mean that it is less clear to potential beneficiaries who should inherit and who should be heirs to the deceased’s estate. This is further complicated by immigration and emigration, and it can be quite a task to trace beneficiaries across national borders. All of this means that there are often more potential beneficiaries who have a valid inheritance claim on the estate of the deceased and there are often complicated circumstances surrounding it, which can cause resentment and lead to disputed wills.

Self-made wills

There are many quick fix solutions to creating a will be they from stationers or over the internet and many people are creating their own wills without seeking professional advice to help them put it together. This can lead to a will being invalid and those with who believe they should be beneficiaries being omitted or (in their eyes) unfairly treated. These potential heirs may then seek to contest a will through the courts.

Fall in living standards

The recession that started in 2008 had a massive impact on people’s estates. Many people found themselves losing money through share and pension schemes as stock market values slipped, others found the values of their property reduced or even in negative equity. This meant that many heirs did not receive the inheritance they were expecting and, as many people were also more concerned for their own financial well-being, it increased the incentive for contesting a will where once they might have just accepted the settlement. Although the economy is now growing, many people are still feeling the pinch and could be tempted to contest a will if they believe they are rightful heirs.

The Law was Outdated

Until, The Inheritance and Trustees’ Powers Bill was introduced into the House of Lords on 30 July 2013 most of the laws surrounding wills and inheritance dated back to the 1970s or even the 1920s. Life in Britain has changed since then and it will be interesting to see if the new bill results in a reduction in the number of wills being disputed by potential heirs in the coming years.

Finders heir hunters have been awarded the ISO 9001:2008 Total Quality Management certification and are the first probate genealogy firm to achieve the international version of this Standard as devised by the IAB (International Accreditation Board). Finders have also been awarded ISO/IEC 27001:2005 Data & Information Security Certification. Finders heir hunters also provide Aviva missing beneficiary insurance, which protects Trustees and Administrators against the unlikely but possible event of an unknown beneficiary emerging after an Estate has been distributed. Finders heir hunters can also obtain Aviva insurance against a will being found which disinherits heirs who have received already been paid, thus safeguarding heir from ever having to repay their inheritance once received.

As agents for Aviva Finders heir hunters are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

For further information and advice contact Finders, 6-8 Vestry Street, London N1 7RE 020 7490 4935

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Daniel Curran
Written by Daniel Curran
Daniel is a leading figure in the UK Heir Hunting industry. He is from Isleworth in West London and has lived in London for most of his life. He has been in the probate genealogy profession since 1990. He formed Finders in 1997 after 7 years at another firm.