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The underlying symptom

Legal proceedings between family members often act only to aggravate issues bubbling under the surface without ever resolving the problem, says Fay Copeland

19 September 2014

Throughout my fifteen years of practice, I have seen an enormous increase in disputes between family members over wills and inheritances. Figures from the Ministry of Justice show that in the five years leading up to 2013, there was a 700 per cent increase in actions launched at London’s High Court to challenge provisions made in wills. That’s a pretty big leap in anyone’s book.

I have pondered over the causes of this. The economic downturn must play a part; when there is less money to go around, people will be more likely to fight for a bigger share. Some blame a more litigious culture generally, and I’d be inclined to agree. Press coverage of disputes over estates has made people aware that a will can be challenged or an inheritance set aside. I also think people have more of a sense of entitlement, fully expecting to receive something after a relative has died. Perhaps, historically people were just happier to put ...

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