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DIY wills blamed for wave of probate disputes

By Jemma Slingo

The number of inheritance disputes heard in the High Court increased from 227 in 2018 to 368 in 2019, according to the south east firm Nockolds Solicitors.

The rise is largely fuelled by the popularity of DIY wills, which are often riddled with errors and omissions, said Nockolds. Family members are also increasingly likely to deal with the distribution of assets themselves, rather than seeking professional advice.

The complexity of modern family structures and the growing value of property are also important factors, according to Nockolds.

Nockolds partner Peter King said: ‘The rise in DIY wills and probate is making costly disputes in the High Court increasingly likely. It is quite easy for a mistake to be made. There can also be a conflict of interest if a family member administering the estate is also a beneficiary.’

Law Society president Christina Blacklaws, added: ‘With the range of different estates and circumstances that exist, it is vitally important people consult a professional when writing their will. Probate law is complex and DIY wills can easily contain mistakes which render them illegitimate or difficult to administer.’

In 2017, a decade-long fight between a woman who was cut out of her mother’s will and three animal charities who were bequeathed the entire £500,000 estate reached the Supreme Court. Justices overturned the Court of Appeal’s decision to award the daughter £143,000 and reduced her inheritance to £50,000.

(Courtesy: Law Society Gazette)