In recent years, there have been many high profiles cases relating to probate disputes that do nothing more than highlight how untidy a dispute can become. You only need to look at the estate of Prince, who did not have a Will in place, to see the potential problems that can arise.
Ultimately, the only positive aspect to seeing these disputes aired in public is that they make us stop and think about our own Wills and estate planning. These contested cases that we have seen splashed across tabloids might make for good reading, but they also clearly highlight the risks and make it clear how important it is to make a valid Will.
There is no doubt that talking about death with your loved ones is extremely difficult and often considered a taboo subject. With the current pandemic hanging over us many people have decided that now is the right time to think about getting a Will in place for their own peace of mind and to avoid problems for their loved ones.
In 2018, Which? Carried out a survey where it was found that 54% of UK residents did not have a Will in place. This means that probate disputes are likely to be made more prominent due to the fact that many people have passed away unexpectedly without having the opportunity to consider the arrangements they want in place after they pass away.
Family structures are becoming more and more complex, as well as family disputes, inheritance tax rules and poorly written DIY Wills, all contribute to legal issues that can lead to poor outcomes for loved ones who are left behind. Where there is no Will, your estate will be distributed under the Intestacy Rules which make no provision for unmarried partners as well as step-children. This could lead to a problems where legacies are paid to those who might not otherwise have inherited and those who were perhaps reliant on the deceased might find themselves in difficult circumstances.
If you want to get your estate planning in place there are several things that you should consider. Think about who you would like to inherit your estate and who perhaps is reliant on you. Consider whether you are a married or unmarried couple along with any children from previous relationships or children that you consider as your own like step-children. Consider your funeral wishes and choosing guardians for your children. Think about how you want people to inherit. Should they inherit immediately or would you prefer their inheritance to be held in trust until they are older or perhaps in better circumstances.
Another thing to consider is the fact that all adults are now considered organ donors when they pass away unless they ‘opt-out’. This is something else that you might want to include in your Will, especially if you consider it to be an important issue. You might also want to think about Lasting Powers of Attorney and appointing someone who can make decisions on your behalf in relation to your finances, your health and wellbeing when you are no longer able to do this yourself.
Probate disputes are horrid, drawn-out experiences that cause stress for all involved. Therefore, now is the time to consider writing your Will and ensuring that all of the relevant arrangements are in place.