Warning that English wills may not be valid in Scotland
Legal professionals across the UK have seen a marked increase in estate planning instructions from existing and new clients during…More
The number of wills being challenged by families has risen during the coronavirus pandemic, lawyers warn.
Staff at law firm JMW Solicitors said they have seen a marked increase in contested probate cases and added that questions over remotely witnessed wills may combine with a contracting economy to create additional inheritance disputes.
Solicitors across the country have reported a sharp rise in will-writing work during the pandemic as people took steps to make sure their financial affairs were in order.
Alison Parry, partner at JMW Solicitors, said: “Coronavirus will create a perfect storm when it comes to contested probate – and the battles are likely to be more vicious given thousands are facing financial ruin as a result of Covid-19 and millions more anticipate redundancy. People will be much more likely to challenge a will – and for much smaller claims – and will be far less willing to negotiate.”
According to the YourMoney website, Ms Parry also expects to see more families asking exactly how a relative’s will was executed, who was in attendance and how capacity was established.
“Face-to-face meetings with the elderly and vulnerable have proven difficult, particularly those in care homes or hospices – lawyers have been permitted access via side doors wearing full PPE, but visits were kept very brief, which raises questions around capacity,” she added. “Have they spent enough time with the client to establish that the individual has capacity to make these particular decisions?”
Questions have also arisen over undue influence, with numerous wills witnessed via platforms such as Zoom over the past few months.
“Families are likely to question whether instructions could be heard properly via a distanced procedure, particularly for the elderly or hearing impaired,” Ms Parry said.