Recession leads to rise in contested wills

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The Independent Online

The number of people challenging the inheritance left by their relatives or partners has jumped by 38 per cent over the past year, according to High Court statistics obtained by the City law firm Wedlake Bell.

The number of High Court cases launched by children, spouses and cohabitees, for example, who feel they have not been properly provided for in wills or on intestacy, rose from 80 in 2008 to 110 in 2009. In 2006 there were only 10 legal challenges at the High Court to the provisions of a will.

Wedlake Bell's analysis suggests that this pattern of relatives challenging wills is likely to be repeated across the country in lower courts.

The recession is cited as one reason for the increase in legal challenges: "As beneficiaries have inherited less than they were expecting, this has sometimes triggered disputes between them as they try to secure a bigger share," a spokesperson for the firm said. Complex extended family structures as a result of multiple marriages and outdated inheritance laws also play a part.

As many claims are settled out of court, the figures reflect only a fraction of the total number of disputes.

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