There has been a notable rise in Wills being contested over the last few years. The complexity of family circumstances due to the number of blended families in the UK increasing, the rise in cohabitation and the higher rate of divorce and/or second marriages are all potential causes. In addition to the more complex family circumstances, there is the ongoing cost of living crisis, rising inflation, and the difficulty for first-time buyers to get on the property ladder. This means there is more scope than ever before for disputes to arise over inheritance.
We have set out five practical steps which may help to prevent your Will from being successfully challenged:
- Instruct an Experienced Solicitor to Draft the Will – if you instruct a solicitor, this reduces the likelihood that your Will may be successfully challenged. It is standard practice for a solicitor to draft an attendance note setting out details of your wishes, rationale for decisions and to also detail what happened at the meeting during which the Will was signed.
- Ensure the Will is Witnessed – in the UK, it is a legal requirement that the signing of Wills is witnessed by two independent witnesses (i.e. not beneficiaries or family members) who have reached the age of majority. If a solicitor is instructed to draft a Will, they will ensure that this legal requirement is complied with. If a Will is not witnessed in this way, the execution of the Will could be open to challenge.
- Draft a Letter of Wishes – a Letter of Wishes is an explanatory document for the executors of your estate to explain your wishes in plain English. A Letter of Wishes helps to add context to your Will, and as such, may help to avoid disputes arising over your estate.
- Keep your Will up to date – you should regularly review your Will to ensure it reflects your wishes. This will enhance the validity of the Will. If you create a new Will, the old Will should be revoked. You should also ensure that the new Will is identifiable and any old Wills are clearly marked as revoked to prevent confusion over which Will is the most recent.
- Register the Will with the National Will Register – executors can use this online service to locate the most recent copy of a Will. The service is easily accessible, with anyone being able to search the online register. Notably, those who search the register are not able to view the contents of the Will, rather they can only discover if a Will exists and where it is being stored. EMW Law are members and can offer this service to their clients. A link to the National Will Register can be found here.