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Rise in Inheritance Tax Disputes

A city law firm has reported three-fold
rises in High Court disputes over Wills.
Wedlake Bell put this down to the breakup of the nuclear family, longer life spans and larger estates. The figures quoted in their recent report into disputes show that the number of disagreements reaching the High Court in 2006 were just 83 compared to 228 last year. The number of actual disputes is also likely to be much higher as many are resolved before reaching that stage. Claims by unmarried partners have gone up as the tendency for couples to cohabit without marrying also increases. Claims from disgruntled family members have also increased. This is prominent where a couple are on their second or even third
marriage and children from the previous
marriage are not included in the Will, the
deceased relying on their spouse providing for previous children. A greater public awareness of mental capacity because of the Act in 2005 has also led to challenges of Wills based on the testators lack of capacity at the time of making the Will. Fay Copeland of Wedlake Bell also states that the increase of gifts to charity has also led to claims by family members. She says many older people feel disconnected to their children nowadays, as families are increasingly dispersed across the UK and worldwide, and in many cases have no communication at all. We have seen an increase in the number of people who decide to leave their sizeable estates to charitable institutions as they feel closer to these than their own children…disgruntled children then challenge their parent’s wills, often on the grounds of mental incapacity. Keeping detailed file notes about your client’s wishes and reasoning when taking instructions can assist should any claim be brought in the future.

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