How to Avoid Inheritance Disputes

Creating a Will and choosing your beneficiaries is not an easy thing to do. It takes careful consideration and thought, and in some cases, someone may still show up to stake a claim to the inheritance in the future. However, there are ways to limit the risk of an inheritance dispute!

What is an Inheritance Dispute?

An inheritance dispute is a challenge to a Will, often brought forward by someone who feels unfairly left out. The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 allows for certain individuals to apply to be included within a Will (even if they were not named) if they do not think the estate provides enough for them.  

Anyone can contest a Will, although they are usually challenged by financial dependents such as children, partners, and ex-partners. The courts will review inheritance claims and consider the financial needs of the claimants and proposed beneficiaries, the size of the estate, and the obligations the deceased might have had towards both the claimants and beneficiaries. 

Recent reports have shown that contesting a Will is becoming increasingly common, and high-profile cases and successes may encourage people to try. Statistics show that inheritance claims climbed by 72% in 2021 and increased from 128 cases in 2018 to 192 cases in 2020. 

Inheritance disputes can also be caused by dying intestate, in which a person passes away without a Will. The rules of intestacy then dictate where their assets should go, which can leave many relations of the deceased feeling angry and left out. 

The chance of an inheritance dispute cropping up is also raised by changes to the family structure. More people are entering second marriages and raising step-children along with their own and having children with their new spouse. These blended families can face several issues if careful planning is not taken, such as:

  • Children or step-children being unintentionally left out of a Will
  • Unmarried partners being left out of the Will
  • The need to protect assets from ex-partners and ex-spouses 
  • Competing interests from partners past and present 

Inheritance disputes can come from anywhere. However, there are multiple ways to prevent them and ensure that your family is taken care of in the future. 

Ways to Avoid Inheritance Disputes

Estate planning is the best way to avoid any potential inheritance disputes that may arise. Steps that you can take include:

  • Creating a Will – this is an essential first step in preventing inheritance disputes. Your Will allows you to decide who inherits your assets and provides clear instructions for how they should be allocated. Even if you choose to exclude people from your Will, ensuring that it is properly signed and witnessed can limit the risk of someone claiming that your Will is invalid after you pass away. 
  • Validating your Will – even when you have written a Will, it must be valid to ensure that your wishes are carried out upon your death. Your Will must be signed in front of two or more witnesses; it must be clear that it is intended to be a Will, and you must have full testamentary capacity to sign it.
  • Updating your Will – relationships can change throughout your life, and you may want to write people out of your Will in the future. Review and update your Will every few years to ensure that your wishes are up to date and your Will is still valid.
  • Considering a trust – trusts do not end upon death, so any beneficiaries named in the trust will continue to benefit from them in the future. Trusts separate specific assets from the estate, which can help with inheritance disputes as well as Inheritance Tax planning.

Many inheritance disputes challenge Wills on the grounds of their validity. If the Will can be proven invalid because of a lack of knowledge, capacity, or execution, inheritance disputes are more likely to succeed. A watertight Will is essential for preventing the risk of inheritance disputes, so take steps to ensure that it is valid.

You can obtain a report that testifies to your testamentary capacity if you have been diagnosed with a condition that could affect your mental capacity, such as early-stage dementia. This report proves that you were of sound mind when creating the Will, therefore mitigating the risk of disputes further down the line. 

If you plan to leave someone out of the Will and are worried that they may try to contest your decision, you can choose to leave a token gift instead. This can be a small amount of money or a specific item, and it can be combined with a side letter to explain your decision and make it clear why you have come to this conclusion. However, if you are leaving someone out of a Will, you do not have to justify your decision or leave any gift at all – your assets are your own to do what you want with.

If you have updated your Will to reflect your wishes, destroy any earlier copies to avoid confusion. Earlier copies could be used as grounds to contest the most recent version of your Will. 

Even with a secure Will and a trust in place, someone may still contest your Will. However, taking these steps to secure it can reduce the chance of any challenges being taken further in the courts, which can financially damage your beneficiaries.  


Inheritance disputes can arise no matter what you do to secure your Will. Disgruntled people who feel excluded may try and bring claims against your estate that may last for several years. However, keeping your Will up to date and ensuring that it is valid can greatly reduce these claims’ chances of success. You have chosen your beneficiaries – don’t let an outdated Will rob them of their inheritance!

Contact The Planning Bee today for more information and advice about creating an airtight Will. Our expert paralegals have decades of experience in creating Wills and can help you to find the best solution to provide for your loved ones into the future. 

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