Avoid a graveside fight with a will

Don't leave your loved ones brawling after your death - make sure you have a watertight will

(Image credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

The number of children fighting over inheritances is on the increase. The High Court saw 116 cases of children challenging their parents’ estates in 2015, an 11 per cent rise on the previous year.

According to the law firm Hugh James, the main problem is rising property prices.

“As property became more expensive, children had more incentive to dispute the division of assets,” says Amelia Murray in in the Daily Telegraph.

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Added to that, families are becoming more complicated, with more relatives, such as stepchildren, feeling they should benefit from a will.

“Because we are now living longer, it is becoming more common for parents to die when their children are middle-aged and assumed to be comfortable financially,” says Murray. “If their children do not need help, parents may be more likely to make alternative arrangements for the distribution of their assets – to friends and charities, for example.”

An astonishing 27 million adults in the UK do not have a will so when they die, their estate will be divided up according to the archaic laws of Intestacy, which can mean long-term partners miss out in favour of an uncle, for example.

Consequently, if you want to control who gets what, make a will.

It is best to get a solicitor to draw up your will - you shouldn’t have to pay more than £200 for a will, unless you have a particularly complicated set of wishes. That way, you know it will be legally correct and they can advise you on minimising your inheritance tax bill too. A do-it-yourself will can easily be declared invalid, leaving you back where started.

You also need to consider where to keep your will. If you use a solicitor is, they will keep a copy so it can be easily accessed after your death.

Don't put your will in a safety deposit box at a bank - your executors won’t be able to access the box until probate has been granted and it can’t be granted until the will is produced.

Once you have a will, be sure to keep it updated if your circumstances change. An out-of-date will can be worse than no will at all. For example, you could have more children who are excluded or you could end up leaving everything to an ex-spouse.

Finally, once you’ve made your will, talk about it. Speak to the people you have chosen as executors and make sure they are happy to take on the role. Also, if you’ve left money to charity, it’s worth telling your nearest and dearest and explaining why you’ve done it. Equally, if you’ve left more money to one person than another, explain why.

If you can explain your decisions it is likely to avoid a lot of angst and battles after your death.

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