Three in four UK adults likely to experience a will dispute

Three in four UK adults likely to experience a will dispute

New research from IBB Law reveals key statistics around will disputes.

In January 2022, IBB Law conducted a survey of 1,000 UK citizens who had been involved in a will, inheritance, or probate dispute over the past 10 years, asking various questions about their experience. The study took a deep dive into matters associated with inheritance disputes and contested wills and probate, including the reasons people have disputed a will and what they stood to gain from such a dispute.

IBB Law’s research uncovered that 3 in 4 people are likely to experience a will, inheritance, or probate dispute in their lifetime, and that inheritance disputes among siblings are the most common form of dispute.

Additionally, disputes in relation to a father’s will are more common than any other relation and 1 in 4 who disputed their inheritance said it was because the deceased was coerced.

According to the findings of the survey, men are 11% more likely to be involved in an inheritance dispute and, in addition to this, are also shown to have been involved in multiple disputes more often than women.

This is particularly interesting, said IBB Law, given that the results from the survey also point towards the fact that, on average, men are likely to inherit more than women in a will. However, this does not mean that men are not instigating inheritance disputes based on the level of inheritance they were expecting to receive. In fact, 27% of male claimants challenged a will based on the level of inheritance they were set to receive –  4% higher than female claimants.

It was also found that 70% of male participants in the survey were executors, compared to 64% of female participants.

These figures could serve to suggest that men are more willing to challenge the contents of a will, or dispute probate – and to handle the additional administrative and legal complications this entails – even if they may already stand to earn more from inheritances than women.

The average age of the deceased that the will or probate dispute related to was 58.7 years. The breakdown of the statistics regarding the most common relations to the deceased goes some way to supporting this, but also throw up a number of interesting contrasts.

The most common dispute occurred regarding the father’s will (11%), which would tend to match the average age range previously mentioned. However, only 7% of mothers’ wills were the subject of a dispute.

Of those who took part in the survey, and did not personally dispute any part of the will, 45% said that the person who did dispute their inheritance was related to them. From this sample, 49% of disputes involved the participant’s sibling, which suggests that you are more likely to be faced with an inheritance dispute from a sibling than anyone else.

For will disputes where the claimant was not a family member, 33% who disputed were said to be a “colleague” and 22% of claimants were a neighbour. IBB Law commented that this was the most surprising statistic, as it does not reflect IBB Law’s experience within the field of contentious probate, and were unable to think of any situation where a colleague would dispute a will, but many survey participants revealed that they had experienced this.

The survey also revealed, perhaps unsurprisingly, a number of very clear patterns to suggest that people with higher incomes stood to inherit more than those with lower incomes.

The key figures here are that 27% of people earning more than £70,000 were set to inherit more than £1 million, while 44% of people earning up to £5,000 were set to inherit just £1,000 to £5,000. This indicates that those on a higher income are, on average, inheriting more than those on a lower income.

The statistics also reinforce the notion that there are a wide variety of reasons for disputing an inheritance, all of which share a relatively even split. Over 1 in 4 (26%) stated that the reason for the will being disputed was because the claimant was not happy with the inheritance they received, and 1 in 4 (25%) said the estate was not being distributed properly. A further 1 in 4 (25%) said the deceased was not able to comprehend and appreciate the claims to which they ought to give effect, such that they lacked testamentary capacity. Whereas just under 1 in 4 (24%) said someone close to the deceased had coerced them to change the will.

Read the IBB Law Inheritance Disputes Report here.

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