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Increase in the number of disputed estates

Information which has been obtained from the High Court, has revealed that the number of cases where people challenge their entitlement to an estate, either as provided for by a Will or by the Rules of Intestacy, has increased dramatically over the past three years.   Cases of spouses, children and cohabitees bringing a claim to the Court where they feel that they have not been adequately provided for financially have increased ten-fold from 2006.   This also represents a 38% increase on the 2008 figures. 

The increase in the number of Wills and intestacy cases being challenged over recent years is likely to be as a result of a number of factors including a reduction in the value of estates during the recession, a change in domestic living arrangements and more complex family structures being commonplace in modern Britain.  

The intestacy rules do not always account for the living arrangements or family circumstances of people in a 21st Century society.   On the other hand in a situation where a married couple have separated but not divorced, the spouse is still entitled to inherit all or the vast majority of the estate under the current intestacy rules.  

The Law Commission have published a consultation paper and its report and a draft Bill is likely to be published in 2011.  It is hoped that the Commission’s recommendations will result in a more relevant and representative process. 

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