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Contentious Probate is Booming

Following recent high profile contested estates, the Law Society Gazette has reported a growing number of clients wishing to bring claims against estates.

The recent case of Ilott v The Blue Cross and Others, which has been widely reported in the national press, follows the case of the late Mrs Mitson. Mrs Mitson, who died in 2004, left her estate (which was just shy of £500k) almost entirely to charity.

Her estranged daughter later brought a claim again the estate under the 1975 Inheritance Act legislation on the basis that she should have been made reasonable provision for. The daughter was initially awarded £50,000, which was later increased to £163,000 on appeal. The figure was then again reduced back to £50,000 at a further appeal, over the course of nearly ten years of litigation. The case is still ongoing and the charities are currently appealing again.

Furthermore, the most notable point in this particular case was that Mrs Mitson hadn’t seen her daughter for some decades and had also expressly excluded her by use of a letter of wishes; something previously thought a good tool to defend an estate.

This case, and others like it, are encouraging private client practitioners to revisit the ways in which they look to protect an estate.

Moreover, the increase in claims against estates is also thought to be in part due to increasingly more complex family dynamics. Divorce rates are high and more often people are remarrying, creating bigger families, with more scope for dispute. More people are cohabiting, buying property together and owning other assets as a couple. Simple Wills have historically worked well for the typical nuclear family but, as times change, it is vital that our clients have the documents in place to protect their own specific circumstances.

Please contact Seymours Solicitors if you wish to discuss your current position and look to reflect it more accurately in your estate planning documents on, Coventry 024 7655 3961 | Leamington 01926 350031.

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