Last year saw an all-time record number of inheritance disputes taking place at the High Court.

According to figures released by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) and reported in The Times, a total of 188 cases were brought by individuals who claimed they were entitled to a share of, or a larger portion of, an estate ­­– up from 128 in 2018, 145 in 2017 and the previous record 158 in 2016.

Lawyers suggest that one reason behind the uplift may be recent high-profile cases that have raised awareness of heirs’ rights. For example, in 2017 three animal charities won a much-publicised case against Hertfordshire woman Heather Ilott, who had been left out of her mother’s £500,000 will.

Other factors that have contributed to the rise include more than 20 years of house price growth that has increased the value of estates and made people more interested in challenging wills, plus a surge in the number of unmarried couples; who lack automatic legal inheritance rights.

In addition, increasingly fragmented families, featuring for example second spouses with children from previous relationships, can lead to a range of competing claims on an individual’s estate.

In recent months, court inheritance battles have also been criticised for the expense involved. In December, a High Court judge expressed “astonishment” that a one-day hearing was due to cost £74,000.

Mr Justice Francis added: “If this were a commercial deal rather than a family row, they would not have spent this amount of money on this litigation because it would not be commercially sensible.”