12.6 million Brits said they would contest a loved one’s will if they were unhappy with how the estate had been divided, according to research by Direct Line Life Insurance.

The poll looked at responses from across the UK, with those most willing to dispute in Southampton (31%), London (29%) and Norwich (29%).

Whether the division of assets is seen as unfair, inappropriate, unusual, disappointing or even excluding close family members, increasing numbers of wills are being disputed. In 2018, the number of disputed applications for probate grew by 6% to over 8,100.

Those willing to go to court to dispute inheritance would need to register a caveat to block the grant of probate. This costs £20, with other fees such as legal costs potentially being incurred.

The most widely used ground for contesting a will is ‘undue influence’, where the deceased was forced to sign a will or unreasonable pressure was placed upon them. However, according to legal experts, contesting wills on the grounds of undue influence are the least successful petitions as the burden of proof is high, and it falls on the person challenging the will to prove undue influence.

Other grounds include contesting the legality of the will, who applied for the grant of probate and whether the deceased was of sound mind.

Other grounds for contesting include testamentary capacity, where the mental and legal ability of a person to make or alter their will is challenged or clerical errors brought through rectification and construction claims where the drafting of the will or the person drafting it failed to reflect the intentions of the deceased.

No will, no way

While the poll focuses on those who have taken out wills, other figures have shown around half of the UK adult population is without a valid will.

Erroneous assumptions that spouses, children or life partners will automatically benefit from inheritance leave many at risk of their wishes not being carried out on death, particularly for cohabiting couples and blended families.

As Editor of Lawble, Gill helps business and individuals become better informed about their legal rights. Gill is a content specialist in the fields of law, tax and human resources.