Inheritance was once something that only the upper classes or large land owners; often farm owning families, would fight over. You will regularly find this depicted in a period drama or even an episode of Midsummer Murders, often with disastrous consequences. However, in today’s society even the most modest estates are at risk of a family dispute.
Sharon Leanne Bell
Partner & Head of Estate & Trust Disputes
With an aged population, adult child siblings often fall out over who should care for their elderly parent or, more importantly, who should have access to their finances. Society, and especially the younger generation, seems to think that there is “a right to inherit”. Gone are the days when the elderly are encouraged to spend their hard earned cash on their retirement enjoying themselves. Some will be encouraged to release equity in order to assist their children get on the property ladder in advance of any inheritance.
Increased property prices mean that it is harder for the younger generations to be able to afford to buy properties and the only way they are going to be able to afford a property is from a gift of monies or inheritance.
We are also the credit generation – buy now pay later; so inheritance can be a way of clearing debts.
Property prices, especially in the South East, have rocketed and some families living in London have elderly relatives sitting on properties worth in excess of £1million. The value of property becomes something worth fighting over.
Most people own their homes. Even if you are a council tenant you can apply to buy your home at a discounted rate if you qualify under the Schemes run by the respective Local Authorities. Properties acquired in locations such as Islington, Tooting and Camberwell that were once council homes some forty/fifty years ago, and were purchased by Council tenants at hugely discounted prices, are now something worth fighting over.
The increase in second families creates a “them and us” distinction, often acrimonious, where so much mistrust is generated and there is usually some worry about future inheritance or trust placed in a surviving spouse to do the right thing by both families. This is difficult if the surviving spouse is exposed to pressure from their children to disinherit their partner’s children, notwithstanding their feelings. They are often caught up in grief and the loss of their partner and become over reliant on other family members. There is often a mistaken belief by couples that their mirror wills will bind them/their partners to the terms after the first death, and despite many solicitors explaining this, it is a regular trait that is people trust their partners (regardless of the advice given) to honour their agreed testamentary wishes and do the right thing; but this often ends badly and results in complicated expensive litigation.
Some may say that we have become more self aware, focusing more on looking after number one instead of putting others first.
This, together with the vulnerability of our elderly population where standards and morals that they were once taught and still believe in, is just a distant memory of those which exists in society today.
We Can Help
At MW, our mission is "To make quality legal services accessible to everyone". We understand that taking the next step to obtain legal advice on inheritance disputes can be worrying for our clients so we have made the process as simple and trouble-free as possible.
We offer an entirely FREE CASE REVIEW where we will discuss your specific circumstances with you and advise on your options going forward including the various ways in which your case could be funded, such as No Win No Fee Agreement.