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Why Families Fight Over Inheritances – and How to Sidestep it

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Most of us like to think that, when the time comes, our family will be able to deal with the assets we leave behind without any difficulties, hiccups, or disagreements. It’s hard enough gaining that all-important peace of mind over the plans we lay out – making sure that we are going to leave them enough to see them through the days, weeks, months, and years that follow the funeral – without also worrying that we are putting the wheels in motion for a massive fall out.

The key is to ensure a watertight, carefully thought-out will – something that matches the relationships and promises we make in life, and which leaves no room for dispute. But what does that mean, exactly? A solicitor is more likely to spot where a will is flawed.

Here are some common issues that can – and do – lead to disputes over inheritances.

If you decide to leave no will at all

One of the reasons so many people presume they don’t need a will is because, in their mind, their family will just know their wishes themselves, and won’t need a document to sort things out for them.

The thing is, when a person dies without a will, any entitlement is governed by the rules of intestacy. Married or civil partners stand to inherit the first £270,000 of the estate, and half of any inheritance beyond that. Children will inherit only if the estate goes beyond £270,000, or if you are not married. If you don’t have children or a legal partner, then a parent, sibling, or other blood relative will stand to inherit.

Whether or not your wishes – and the promises you made to loved ones – are kept depends on how the beneficiary (or beneficiaries) of your estate under the laws of intestacy choose to handle their inheritance. This can become incredibly complicated, and a tricky subject for any family to navigate.

How to sidestep it

Don’t delay creating a sound and carefully thought-out will. Work with a solicitor to ensure it is valid and comprehensive, rather than creating one at home, without expert help.

If someone isn’t happy about the contents of a will

Wills are not always straightforward, and there can be any number of reasons why one family member inherits more or less than another – or, in some cases, why someone who might expect to be named within the will isn’t mentioned at all. This is another tricky subject, and one that you ought to talk through carefully with your solicitor.

If a family member feels as though they have been left out of a will, or treated unfairly, then they may choose to consult with will dispute solicitors in order to claim what they feel they are entitled to or have been promised.

How to sidestep it

Think very carefully about your will, and the impact it will have, before you sign in. Also, think very carefully about the promises and assurances you make to loved ones. Death is a tricky subject to raise around friends and family, but it’s better to get everything out in the open now, rather than later, when you can’t explain yourself.

If a family member suspects the will is invalid

There are many reasons why a will may not be valid. A family member may suspect that their loved one – the testator – was coerced or tricked into making certain provisions within their will, or that they were no longer of sound mental capacity when the final draft was written and signed. Alternatively, they may feel that the will was not written by the named testator at all, and that their only option is to contest it.

How to sidestep it

The key is to work with an experienced solicitor on your will, and any revisions that need to be made over the years. DIY will packs are available, but can be risky.

Image at Unsplash

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