43% don’t know they can challenge a will in court

Four in ten people who may have been unfairly treated in a will are completely unaware they are able to challenge it in court according to a recent survey.

An estimated 80% of challenges to wills are successful, with just 32% of so-called unfair wills making it that far.

The research carried out for First4lawyers also found that whilst 33% of people felt they had been treated unfairly by a will, almost half (44%) said they wouldn’t challenge it on the grounds of it being “distasteful” with over 65s being the least likely: 90% said they would not challenge a will even if left out completely.

In one in three cases the eldest child will receive the largest share of an estate whilst a corresponding one in three are left out completely.

The research also states that wills can be a significant cause of family rifts even whilst the person whose estate is being shared out is still alive – 21% admit to lying about the contents of the will, with people receiving something different to what they had expected in 74% of cases. Of the 33% of people who say they have been unfairly treated in a will, 49% said it had caused them to completely stop talking to some family members.

Chair of the Law Society Wills and Equity Committee, Jane Whitfield, said: “If you wish to contest or challenge a will there must be a valid reason.

“There are time limits on disputing a will, so it is important that you seek legal advice quickly. A solicitor is the best person to advise you on timing, as well as whether there are sufficient grounds to dispute the will, and how likely the claim is to be successful.

“Everyone should have a will, but it is even more important if you have children, you own property or have savings, investments, insurance policies or you own a business.

“A will helps to ensure that your assets are divided amongst the family, friends and charities of your choice, and can reduce the amount of inheritance tax you pay. If you die without a will your assets will be distributed in accordance with the intestacy rules.”

Today's Wills and Probate