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‘Probate Timebomb’ exacerbated by rising house prices and ‘write your own will’ kits

Press Releases   •   Apr 08, 2014 12:27 BST

With house prices now at an average of over £250,000 and the incidence of ‘write your own will’ kits, the courts may face a continued rise in contested probate cases.

Dennis Sharpe, barrister at Field Court Chambers explains:

“The average house price has now risen to the level at which, in the absence of a will, the courts will apply rigid rules to the distribution of an estates’ assets. This can often lead to large sums being
given to children or grand-children ill-equipped to deal with such sudden riches, or to surviving parents who didn’t expect to receive monies.

We are also finding that using ‘write your own will’ kits can lead to contested probate claims. This is especially prevalent where beneficiaries of the will have helped a relative to write it, an avenue which
allows, in certain circumstances, for the will to be contested.

Clients often contact solicitors having discovered a will exists for the first time or because the absence of a will means that monies will be distributed in direct conflict to how the surviving family members understood, or were promised that they would be. Too many harbour under the false impression that all monies would automatically revert to a surviving partner upon death and are now faced with the nasty reality that they may not be able to stay in the family home as a share has passed to an ‘unintended’ relative with whom they may not be on good terms.

As rising house prices increase the amounts at stake and more and more home-made wills are being written we are sitting on a ‘probate timebomb’”

The lesson is that a homemade will must be clearly drafted so that there is no ambiguity in its terms.

Dennis Sharpe is available to answer any questions journalists may have, to comment on high profile cases (such as the recent L’Wren Scott death and rumours that her estranged sister may contest the will) or to provide answers to readers/listeners questions. Please contact Adam Lewis on adam.lewis@fieldcourt.co.uk or 020 7025 0326

Notes to editors:

House prices – according to the ONS the average house price in the UK is over £250,000 (http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/hpi/house-price-index/january-2014/stb-january-2014.html#tab-Average-House-Prices-in-Countries-and-Regions).

Absence of a will – according to research by WillAid (http://www.willaid.org.uk/press/research)
of the 50 million adults living in the UK, almost 28 million (56%) do not have a Will.

Field Court  - Leading London barristers - specialising in Family, Child, Employment, Company, Commercial, Court of Protection, Local Government, Property, Personal Injury, Direct Public Access

With house prices now at an average of over £250,000 and the incidence of ‘write your own will’ kits, the courts may face a continued rise in contested probate cases.

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