Inheritance disputes making the news

There have been increasing reports recently around inheritance disputes creating a real focus on this area. With the Mail reporting that ‘only two thirds of adults plan to leave children equal amounts in their wills’, this closely follows the comments from a certain Mr Bond, saying that he finds leaving children funds in a will distasteful and plans to give most of it away before he dies.  

The Mail reports that 68% of adults would give their children an equal share of their wealth, whereas 16% would take into account what each child had already had with regards to financial support during their lifetime.  

It’s also been widely reported that the number of contentious probate cases in the UK is rising rapidly and at its highest. This is due to an ever-changing landscape of increased wealth, property ownership and blended family units.  

Just last year Legal futures reported the research undergone by Direct Line Insurance, the findings showed that one in four people would challenge a Will if they were unhappy with the division of the estate. In the same article Gill Steele from Lawskills commented ‘the wealth takes the form not only of property, but index-linked pensions, while more couples divorce and people live longer, often with “complex families” hoping to share the pot. Things tend to become “more acrimonious” where relationships are more complex.‘ Following on this line, it seems to be the issue of blended family units that is creating the most noise.

A few cases that have hit the headlines

Former Monty Python star Terry Jones was in the news in September due to the ongoing battle between his current wife Anna Soderstrom and his two older children from his first marriage who are contesting the will. Soderstrom is the main beneficiary for the Will, yet is currently being sued under the Inheritance Act 1975 which allows family members to seek reasonable provision from an estate. 

Yesterday, The Times reported the latest on the Patrick Seale case, as the widow of the historian has labelled his children as ‘cruel and greedy’ as they fight in court over the £3.5 million family home and art collection. It’s emerged that Patrick took legal proceedings to divorce his wife prior to his death, and therefore diminished the joint ownership of their property, meaning his half went into his estate when he died rather than passing over to Ms Seale. The case has now reached high court where Ms Seale is in the midst of a litigious battle with three of his children.  

Another high-profile case was that of Damian Hurley and his half-sister Kira Bonder, who have been cut out of Steve Bing’s family fortune, due to being born out of wedlock. Peter Bing, Damian’s grandfather went to court to cut him and Kira out of their $250 million share (each) of the estate. Steve’s sisters’ children are set to inherit the whole fortune that was laid out in the ‘grandchildren trust’. 

With blended families increasing disputes of this nature are only going to continue to rise. The Office for National Statistics recently reported that couples living with their children from a previous and current relationship has increased by three quarters over the last ten years.  

Research to minimise inheritance dispute

Blended families create a succession minefield for practitioners, which is something that STEP have pinpointed in their latest research around the increases in modern, complex families seeking wealth and succession planning advice.  

The research provided insight that nearly two thirds of wealth and succession advisors say that complex, cross-border, mixed-ethnicity and cohabiting families now make up a meaningful proportion, or in some cases the majority, of the families they advise.  

The changes mean that when planning financially for the future it can add another layer of complexity to the mix. The research showed that the majority of respondents felt to reduce this conflict, it was vital families engage in good communication, including open and honest conversations around their wealth and how it will be divided. Read the full study. 

Martin Holdsworth Founder and Director at IDR Law comments on the current situation  

‘I truly empathise with how difficult family dynamics can be especially when you throw into the mix a taboo subject such as succession planning, it can create a toxic environment that nobody wants to deal with. 

However, unfortunately the increase in inheritance dispute is very real, and IDR Law was set up four years ago to deal solely with conflict of this kind. 

Our team of contentious probate specialists is growing consistently to deal with the high demand. This growth ensures they are not overworked and benefit from a work life / balance that is so important at IDR.’ 

IDR Law is an approachable, boutique firm and the only one in the country dealing solely with inheritance dispute resolution. Whether you’re a law firm, or an individual who feels they would benefit from our expertise, get in touch here, email us at enquiries@idrlaw.co.uk or call on 01423 637050. 

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