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Stephensons Solicitors LLP Look at the Circumstances that Cause Inheritance Disputes

The reading of a loved one’s Will can be a tense time, not only because of the intense emotion involved, but also because of the expectations of those listening.


The reading of a loved one’s Will can be a tense time, not only because of the intense emotion involved, but also because of the expectations of those listening.
In an ideal world, inheritance flows through the family to those who are entitled to it, but sometimes decisions are taken to exclude certain family members, or to redirect the flow of inheritance elsewhere. This can lead an inheritance dispute.
In recent years the number of inheritance disputes has been on the rise, as staggeringly high property prices and complex family arrangements make inheritance even more complicated.
Here, we look at five of the most common reasons why people challenge a Will.
1. Property
Disputes over property usually relate to the share that a beneficiary is entitled to, as well as whether a property should be rented out or, if it is to be sold, how it is to be sold.  For example, in a situation where a beneficiary is living in the property in question, refusing to move, but the other beneficiaries – and the executor of the estate – want to sell the property and distribute their shares, this may result in a dispute.
2. Money
In a way money is the hardest asset to pin down – arguments can start over money in the bank, but where cash isn’t kept in such a traceable way, arguments can become very heated.  Beneficiaries feeling hard done by often claim that money was taken before someone died – or immediately afterwards – and that this has diminished the overall sum.  The result can be long and drawn out searches to try and trace what happened to the money.
3. Jewellery
Jewellery has the double attraction of having monetary and sentimental value. Beneficiaries may feel they need something to remember the deceased by.  Emotions powered by grief can result in all sorts of hot headed actions, from theft, to melting necklaces or bracelets down to stop another beneficiary getting their hands on them.
4. Ashes
While not of any economic value, disputes over who is entitled to hold on to the deceased’s ashes are common.  It’s a difficult area and can be extremely emotional, as dealing with the ashes can be made very personal to one beneficiary and consequently exclude others.  The same issues may arise with a burial – it is not unknown for injunctions to be taken out to prevent a burial in a certain place.
As a general rule there is ‘no property in a body,’ so no one person can own the ashes.  Whoever is entitled to the Grant is responsible for disposing of the ashes as requested in the Will, or making the decision themselves where the Will is silent.  Where there are two people equally entitled to the Grant, then the first to get to the Grant will be successful.  The same is true for burials.
5. Illegitimate Children
A Will can reveal much about a person’s past, including illegitimate children, who the family may not know about. Most people will keep their Will private, knowing that the contents will only be revealed after they are not there to deal with the recriminations. The sudden appearance of a new family member can result in some fiercely fought inheritance disputes. Where part of an estate has been left to an illegitimate child, DNA evidence is often required to prove the familial link before the estate can be administered.
These are the top five reasons as to why inheritance disputes can arise. One of the best ways to ensure that your own circumstances are not affected is to make sure you have a properly drawn up and executed Will.  However, where you do end up in an inheritance dispute, seek advice from a specialist early.


 Inheritance Disputes
 Wills and Probate
 Contesting a Will
 Changing a Will
 Illegitimate Children

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