How re-marriages can lead to disputes over Wills

The rising number of re-marriages and relationships involving older couples has led to an increasing number of disputes over Wills in the last few years.

Conflicts due to relationships started later in life have now become one of the main reasons for families taking legal action if they feel they have missed out on their rightful inheritance following the death of a relative.

A typical problem arises when a man or woman remarries and then leaves all their Estate to their current spouse and nothing or very little to the children of an earlier marriage.

Such children may well be adults in their thirties and forties who find it very hard to accept that the wealth their parent built up during an earlier marriage should suddenly be left to a subsequent spouse who they may have only been married to for a few years.

It is a very emotive problem and the resentment is made worse when they think that their parent’s Estate will eventually pass to the children of a later marriage and not to them.

Problems can also arise when a man or woman leave most of their wealth to the children of an earlier marriage and do not provide adequately for the needs of their current spouse. In these circumstances, the current spouse may be prompted to challenge the Will.

There are also cases in which a Will ignores a family member ie a son or daughter who expects to inherit but there is no explanation as to why that person has been excluded.

Many of these problems can be avoided if people make their intentions clear when drafting their Will.

If you want to exclude someone who might otherwise expect to inherit then it is best to explain why you want to do that. A statement of wishes setting out the reasoning behind the provisions of your Will may help to avoid any such potential disputes arising.

Disputes can also arise because a relative feels the person making the Will did not have testamentary capacity at the time the Will was made or was subjected to undue influence by someone who stands to benefit under it.

Anyone wanting to challenge a Will must do so within six months of probate being granted.

Please contact Jenny McKellar on 01373 865577 or email jmckellar@mulaw.co.uk if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or need some advice relating to them.