Making your will: Is there potential for a dispute? 

We would all like to think that our families get along beautifully, that our relatives would “do what is right” or would agree on how to deal with things when we die. For many people this is the case, and the division of an estate is straightforward.
It’s often the reality, however, the combination of heightened emotions following a death, potential underlying resentments, and blended family units can lead to disputes amongst family members and beneficiaries.

Making a will is the most important step 

If you don’t have a will in place, the Iaws of intestacy   will determine how your estate is distributed, with a strict hierarchy of who can inherit. 

These laws will ignore unmarried partners and stepchildren and, depending on the value of your estate, your spouse or civil partner would not necessarily receive everything. 

Making a will ensures that your instructions are clearly set out, and your loved ones or chosen charities can benefit from your estate as you wish.
Whilst there is no legal requirement to make a will with a solicitor, it’s better to seek specialist advice and have your will professionally drafted. This will ensure that the distribution of your estate is exactly as you want it. It also means that your solicitor will be able to vouch for your capacity when you made your will in the event of a dispute after you have died.

How can I avoid disputes? 

It isn’t possible to guarantee that there will be no disputes arising when dealing with an estate – if someone feels aggrieved by a particular set of circumstances, they can look into bringing a claim.
It’s therefore important to ensure that you have considered these potential scenarios when making your will. 

If you are leaving out a potential beneficiary altogether, it’s worth thinking about asking your solicitor to draft a statement outlining the reasons for not including that person. 

Whilst this will not prevent a claim, it can be useful evidence against one. Likewise, if you are leaving unequal amounts to your children, leaving a written explanation can also be useful in helping them to understand your reasoning.  

Would a trust in my will help?

In certain circumstances, a life interest trust in a will may be a good way to provide for a spouse during their lifetime but ensuring that your children ultimately benefit from your estate. This can be useful where your children are from a previous marriage, and you would like to provide for them without leaving your spouse without support.
A discretionary trust may also be helpful where a dispute is a concern. This type of arrangement would require you to name beneficiaries who you would potentially like to benefit from your estate, but your trustees would consider their circumstances and needs, and any guidance you have left with your will before deciding how to distribute the assets.
If you’re considering including any type of trust in your will, you should always obtain the advice of a solicitor to ensure that the provisions are properly drafted.



Elizabeth Whitaker

Senior Associate, Forbes Solicitors LLP

Elizabeth is a Senior Associate specialising in the drafting of Wills and Trusts, Probate, inheritance tax planning, Lasting Powers of Attorney and the Court of Protection Deputyship applications.  She takes the lead on probate work within the private client team at Forbes Solicitors and has broad experience in this area.
Elizabeth is an Accredited Member of the Association of Lifetime Lawyers, a full member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) and a Legal 500 Recommended Lawyer.

Forbes Solicitors LLP operates nationally with offices in Lancashire, Manchester, Leeds and London.  The firm offers the full range of legal services to commercial clients, individuals and a number of specialist sectors.  It prides itself on providing clear, straightforward and practical advice, no matter what the circumstances.