Figures released by HM Revenue & Customs have revealed that the number of deceased estates valued at more than £1 million has risen by over one-third in five years.
In 2013-14, there were 8,340 estates worth over a £1million, whilst in 2018-19 the number stood at 11,210. This rise is likely to have been fuelled in part by house price growth, with more than half a million UK homes now estimated to be worth in excess of £1 million.
The risks of leaving a large estate
Along with an increase in the value of estates, there has also been an increase in estate disputes. The High Court has heard over 2,300 contentious probate cases over the past decade, and it is likely that a much higher number of disputes have occurred, but been settled out of court. In 2020 alone, over 10,000 caveats were entered to try and prevent Grants of Probate or Letters of Administration from being issued. The entry of caveats and estate disputes in general can significantly delay the winding-up of a person’s estate after their death.
The likelihood of disagreements arising after a death can be higher in certain circumstances, including:
- Where there is a complex family structure, for example, when there is a second marriage and children from more than one relationship;
- Where an estate has a fairly high value, although it should be noted that many disputes still arise over more modest estates;
- Where a Will is unclear or ambiguous, perhaps because it was a DIY Will;
- Where the deceased did not leave a Will and family members have different opinions as to what the deceased’s wishes would have been, and disagree with the distributing of the estate by the intestacy rules (the law);
- Where someone has not been left anything but believes they should have been;
- Where an individual relied on the deceased to support them and they do not believe they have been left enough for their continued support;
- Where someone believes they were promised something by the deceased, but they do not receive this in the Will or under the intestacy rules.
Protecting your loved ones for the future
The best way to avoid disagreements is to speak to a professional Wills lawyer about exactly what you would like to happen after your death, how you would like to provide for your loved ones and how you wish to protect your assets. A lawyer will be able to point out any potential pitfalls and ensure that a robust Will is drawn up reducing the risk of misunderstandings, and claims being made after your death.
They will also be able to suggest ways of safeguarding your estate to provide for your wishes to be met in the most efficient way, whether that be in relation to administration, inheritance tax or both.
With the continuing rise in the value of estates, and the increasing number of estate disputes, it is more important than ever to ensure your Will is clear and delivers upon your wishes. If a dispute arises, it can, in the worst-case scenario, drain an estate of all assets as well as cause significant family rifts which may never be repaired.
If you would like to make an appointment to discuss the preparation of your Will, or administration of an estate with one of our experienced Wills and Probate lawyers, please call us on 01252 733 770 or email us at email@example.com and we will be happy to assist.