Part of the watching brief we keep for clients is to keep up-to-date with the work of other professionals, so that we can advise appropriately. Speaking to a private client lawyer recently, it became apparent that his firm had dealt with a number of disputed estates over the past few months. You might expect that some of these cases involve those with no Will and you would be right. However, a surprising number of Wills are challenged by distant relatives, ex-spouses, those claiming dependency or those who feel a promise made during the deceased’s lifetime has not been kept. Lawyers refer to these cases as “Contentious Probate” and it would appear they are on the increase.
Whilst we advise always making a will, there are steps you can take to ensure that “Contentious Probate” will not affect how your assets are distributed among your loved ones: –
- A letter of wishes can give voice to your preferences, where there is room for doubt. If there is a possibility of dispute, then setting out the reasoning behind your bequests will be a great help.
- Reviewing your Will regularly with your lawyer, to take account of any changes in the law or your own circumstances.
- Discussing with your family how your estate is to be distributed on your death, so that there are no surprises.
- Appointing at least one executor who will have a great deal of knowledge about you, your wishes and preferences.
Whilst few of us wish to actively contemplate our own mortality, paying attention to the above and taking these common sense steps may well save time and anxiety for your beneficiaries.