We take a look at the relationship between inheritance disputes and DIY wills
The president of the Law Society has urged people to consult a solicitor when they want to make a will following reports that DIY wills have led to an epidemic of inheritance disputes.
Christina Blacklaws, who is the 174th president of the Law Society of England and Wales and only the fifth woman to hold the role, warned that probate law is complex. This means that DIY wills that people make without professional assistance, ‘can easily contain mistakes which render them illegitimate or difficult to administer.’
Official statistics confirm that the courts are hearing an increasing number of inheritance disputes. Some lawyers are putting this down to the popularity of DIY wills, which frequently incorporate errors or have unintended consequences. However, in our experience the rise in inheritance disputes is being fuelled by factors that go well beyond poorly drafted DIY wills.
Specialist inheritance dispute lawyer, Naomi Ireson, comments:
‘There is no doubt that homemade DIY wills are contributing to the number of inheritance disputes we are seeing. People think that by making their own will they are saving money, but in many cases those savings are massively outweighed by the legal costs that are incurred when a dispute arises. Wills are relatively cheap, so it really is a false economy.’
‘But it’s not just DIY wills that are responsible for the growth in inheritance disputes. I would say that blended families are the major factor. My article on the Cinderella Dilemma illustrates how disputes can arise between children and their step parents. The other driving force is higher property prices. Estates tend to have a much higher value these days. This means there are often considerable sums of money involved, encouraging claims to be made where previously families would not have consulted a lawyer.’
The legal DIY bug isn’t just restricted to making wills. People are also being tempted to administer estates themselves, taking responsibility for distributing the assets and dealing with the tax. But again, it is easy for mistakes to be made unwittingly. Even simple errors can have serious repercussions. It leads to stressful and expensive legal disputes arising. It also creates conflict within families with relationships breaking down completely and irretrievably.