Experts are warning that a post-Covid rise in disputed wills is evidence that not enough estates are getting professional advice when it comes to complex probate cases.
According to the latest data, the new number of contested probate cases in England and Wales rose in 2019 and 2020, when there were 192 contested Wills, the highest number ever recorded.
This follows from the figures in 2019 being 50 per cent higher than those in 2018 – demonstrating an upward trend in conflict that is expected to continue in future.
Solicitors, speaking to the publication Today’s Wills and Probate, have suggested that the rise in contentious cases could be due to people who suffered financially in the pandemic having greater motivation to obtain larger inheritances.
However, equally, there is a growing concern within the legal profession that some families may be using unqualified advisers to deal with challenging cases, leading to disputes and the potential loss of thousands of pounds in tax relief on estates.
It is thought that a hike in the price of probate fees earlier this year might have forced some families to reduce their costs by seeking cheaper, less qualified advisers, who are unable to deal with conflicts that may arise during the probate process.
The probate fees rose from either £155 or £215 depending on the type of probate needed, to a flat fixed fee of £273.
It was claimed by the Ministry of Justice that this sudden jump in fees was needed to fund improvement to the outdated probate system to make it more effective.
In most cases, families are advised to not only seek help from a qualified adviser but also a solicitor with sufficient experience to deal with contested Wills and probate, as well as the expertise to help them minimise potential Inheritance Tax bills.
Please get in touch if you need help with a complex probate case or advice on preparing a Will to prevent disputes.