Why are court cases regarding Wills on the rise?
There has been a recent and sharp rise in claims being brought in the High Court to challenge the validity of a deceased’s Will. No-one really knows for certain why that is the case, but educated guesswork based on limited data indicates that the reasons might include an increasing awareness of legal rights helped by ease of access to information on the internet, and post-recession law firms learning to be more canny in educating the public in their legal services and website marketing. It is also widely considered that the increasing complexity of family structures (e.g. having children from two separate relationships) is adding to the rise in claims being brought.
The commercial reality
Many organisations are understandably keen to chase the Holy Grail of commoditising the preparation of Wills. In recent years, the market has grown for Will ‘DIY’ kits, low cost online services, discounted Wills, and means to make your Will other than with an experienced and suitably qualified solicitor. Even within the legal profession, Will preparation is commonly referred to as a ‘loss-leader’, which is basically a product sold at a loss in order to attract more customers. The commercial reality is that this can result in solicitors taking instructions and preparing Wills under pressure of meeting financial targets, which increases risk and can have unfortunate results for the client.
Give the making of your Will the attention it deserves
Our experience is that Will preparation tends to be viewed by many members of the public and other non-solicitor professionals as something very quick and easy to do. The truth of the matter is that making a Will is fundamentally important given its instructive nature after you are dead, and this requires proper input and consideration from both the practitioner and the client. There is no way to eliminate risk but you and your advisor can take certain steps to reduce it as far as possible. Making your Will does not have to be a painful or complex process, but you can immediately help to lower risk of things going wrong by at least giving the process its dues and your full and undivided attention.
Our suggestions for you
The way things are progressing, we can expect to see more and more challenges to Wills in the future, accompanied by the sometimes irreparable family rifts such challenges can cause.
Beware the cheap or discounted Will service, rather be smart and focus on whether or not genuine value for money is being given.
Ensure that the person or organisation preparing your Will has insurance in place in case the Will is wrong, leading to financial loss after you have died (solicitors are required to have this insurance in place).
Our view is that making your Will is something that should be done after a face to face meeting with an experienced solicitor who is able to discuss the taxation, trust, practical and potential dispute issues with you.
We think that, at any time after you have made your Will, you should be able to describe exactly what will happen under it after your death. If you cannot do that perhaps it is time to dust off your Will and have a keen read.