Direct Line Survey Reveals Where There’s a Will, There’s Often a Fight

Over 12.6 million (24 per cent) people would seek to dispute the wishes of a loved one by going to court to challenge the bequests in their will, if they disagreed with the division of their estate reveals new research from Direct Line Life Insurance.

Research amongst family law professionals reveals 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 successful grounds for contesting wills are highlighted as ‘testamentary capacity,’ where the mental and legal ability of a person to make or alter their will is challenged.  The third most successful grounds are for ‘rectification and construction’ claims, if a clerical error was made in the drafting of the will or the person drafting it failed to reflect the intentions of the testator.

Analysis of figures supplied by HM Courts and Tribunals service shows the number of disputes regarding applications for probate increased by an estimated 6 per cent in 2018.   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.  Brits are registering caveats for such concerns as whether the will is legal, whether the deceased was of sound mind (mentally competent when the will was made), or as a result of disputes over who applied for a grant of probate. 

Jane Morgan, Business Manager at Direct Line Life Insurance, commented: “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.”

Regional findings – Strong Alan Partridge Effect Detected

Almost a third (31 per cent) of the residents of Southampton would be prepared to ignore the wishes of a loved one if they felt they were being unfairly excluded from their will and would contest seek to contest it in court.  Residents of London are the most likely to contest the will of a parent if they disagree with the division of the estate, with 21 per cent willing to head to court to secure what they feel is their fair share.  Almost one in five (18 per cent) residents of Norwich would contest the will of their partner if they didn’t agree with the division of assets.

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