It has been reported that the increase in the number of children involved in inheritance disputes has been fuelled by rising property prices.
As the value of property has soared during the last decade, the estates of ‘ordinary’ families have become more likely to prompt inheritance disputes as families go to war over the division of assets. The High Court saw 116 cases of children challenging their parents’ estates in 2015, compared with 104 in 2014 – an 11% rise.
One reason for this surge is due to the rise in more complicated family structures which has led to more relatives, such as stepchildren, expecting to benefit from the estate.
There has also been an increase in cases where children challenge charity donations. This may be due to increased life expectancy which means it is becoming more common for parents to die when their children are middle-aged and assumed to be comfortable financially. If their children are perceived not to need as much financial help, parents may be more likely to make alternative arrangements for the distribution of their assets – to friends or charities, for example.
The children of the deceased can make a claim under the Inheritance Act if they feel reasonable provisions have not been made for them. There is also an option for those who were treated as the deceased’s child to claim against the estate, even if no formal or legal arrangement exists – such as when children have been adopted or fostered.
Tom Curran, Chief Executive at Kings Court Trust said: “Unfortunately, we do see family disputes over inheritance and it highlights how important it is to ensure your Will explicitly states how you want your estate to be distributed.
By ensuring that your Will is clearly and professionally written, your estate can be dealt with as smoothly as possible and reduces the likelihood of loved ones being unintentionally excluded when it comes to their inheritance. It is important that people understand the benefits of planning ahead, regardless of our age or health.”