How to avoid a dispute between your loved ones over your will

The last thing you’ll want when you pass away is to have your family divided and in conflict over your will.

Unfortunately, this kind of event is on the rise. Figures from the Ministry of Justice published by WealthBriefing show an increase in High Court disputes over family inheritance from 2018 to 2020.

There are many reasons this could be the case. From an increase in individuals creating homemade wills to save on costs, to blended families where children and stepchildren haven’t been treated equally in a will, there is a whole host of reasons that might be responsible for the rise in disputes.

Not only could this be an expensive process for your loved ones, but it could also sever ties and create long-lasting divisions, simply over your wealth.

That’s why you should take steps during your lifetime to help prevent an argument like this. Here are a few things you can do to help avoid a dispute over your will.

Make your will early on – and update it throughout your life

Your will is the foundation stone on which the rest of your estate plan is built. So, the sooner you create your will, the sooner this legally binding document will come into effect. This ensures that you don’t die intestate, which would see your assets divided by common law.

Include as much detail as possible in your will and leave clear instructions for what you want to happen to your wealth. Ambiguity in a will could be a cause for disputes if your instructions are misinterpreted.

The biggest benefit of creating a will early on is that there will be no arguments about your state of mind or mental capacity.

If you require care in later life or suffer from a serious condition such as dementia, it could raise disputes about your ability to have made decisions for yourself.

So, by making your will sooner rather than later, there can be no doubt as to your intentions at the time you made it.

Remember to continuously update your will throughout your life, too. Whether that’s because your circumstances change or you decide to split your wealth in a different way, regularly return to your will and check that it’s still fit for purpose.

We recommend reviewing your will at least once a year to make sure everything is still relevant and appropriate to your circumstances.

Choose your executor carefully – and consider pairing them with a professional

Judiciously picking the executors of your will can be instrumental in preventing disputes.

Your executors are the individuals who will be responsible for carrying out the wishes in your will. As a result, it’s incredibly important to choose knowledgeable individuals who will be able to handle the administrative burden.

It’s key to choose trustworthy executors who you’re confident will act in good faith for everyone involved. After all, there’ll be no need for disputes if your executors act fairly and equitably.

You can appoint a professional to assist with this process, such as your solicitor or accountant, which can be particularly helpful if the estate is large or complicated. Remember that being an executor involves taking on legal liability.

Consider discussing everything with your family

As you make key decisions about your future, it can be useful to have honest and open conversations with your family members about what will happen to your wealth when you pass away.

Having these exchanges during your lifetime gives you the opportunity to explain your decisions to your family members in person. That way, they’ll know exactly where they stand, removing the need for them to dispute the will later on.

It also gives them the chance to have their voices heard as to what they want to happen. This might include suggestions that you hadn’t considered that you may want to add to your will.

Or, at the very least, it creates a space to explain why you don’t want to do things that way.

It can be tricky to initiate these discussions, so it may be worth having them together with your financial planner. By doing so, you can have a professional to mediate and provide impartial advice to your family during these potentially combative debates.

Create a Lasting Power of Attorney

It can be sensible to put a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) in place to help avoid disputes.

An LPA allows your loved ones to make decisions on your behalf should you ever lose mental capacity to do so for yourself.

You appoint a trusted individual, or individuals, to be your “attorney”. In doing so, this gives them the right to make decisions with either your health or finances, depending on which kind of LPA you create. You can choose to have both types in place.

An LPA is a legally binding document. That means your attorneys have the right to make decisions, even if others disagree with them.

So, even if these decisions are disputed within your family, the LPA will ensure that your attorney has the legal right to carry out your wishes.

You can find out more about why having an LPA in place is so important on our blog.

Consider putting assets in trust

Finally, if you have any remaining concerns about individuals making a claim to your wealth, you could consider putting assets in trust.

Holding assets in trust involves locking them away for a specified beneficiary or range of beneficiaries. You’ll then appoint a trustee to oversee the trust and make decisions with it, having most likely given them some guidance on your wishes at the outset.

Trusts allow you to set aside assets that only your beneficiaries have a legal right to. This can prevent third parties, such as ex-partners or stepchildren, from accessing this wealth if you don’t want them to. It can also potentially help to protect against a number of other threats to passing your wealth down through the generations.

There are many different kinds of trust for specific circumstances. Speak to us to find out which kind is most appropriate for you and your family.

Work with a professional

If you’d like help creating a cohesive estate plan that will help to ensure your loved ones remain tight-knit and together after you pass away, please get in touch with us at Britannic Place.

We can help you create a will and a plan for the future that protects both your family and your legacy.

Email or call 01905 419890 to speak to an experienced adviser.

Please note

The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate estate planning, tax planning or will writing.

Get in touch, we’d love to help you

If you have any questions or queries, a member of the team will always be able to help. Feel free to use the form below or contact us via phone or email.