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Posted 11 April 2017
by Martin Laver

Brothers lose claim for stepmother’s share in their father’s estate

Recently two farmer’s sons took legal action in attempt to prevent their stepmother getting an extra £25,000 from their father’s will. Their legal case stated that their disabled father’s earlier will should be upheld as he was unfit to make the final will, which left £125,000 to their stepmother as opposed to the £100,000 that was left to her in the earlier will.

Taking this court action apparently cost the brothers more than their entire inheritance of £62,500 each.  It is reported that their total legal bill amounted to around £200,000.

Martin Laver, a Disputed Wills specialist at Tozers Solicitors in Exeter said of the case: “This case highlights three things.  Firstly, the rise generally of disputes around wills.  Secondly, that parties need to be clear that the benefits outweigh the risks of litigation and, thirdly, anyone making a will is advised to communicate their wishes to all of their beneficiaries and to consider any possible rifts that may occur once the details of their will are made known to the parties. If you are intending to exclude children, a spouse or civil partner from your will it can be beneficial to seek legal advice as there are certain steps that can be taken which make it harder for people to challenge your will at a later date.”

Modern family structures and rising house prices are contributing towards the increase in inheritance disputes appearing before the courts. With property values increasing it would seem that more people are making the decision to pay for litigation.

Whereas it used to be the trend that most disputed wills were dealt with in the County Court, there are now record figures reaching the High Court. Figures published in September last year showed 116 disputed Wills cases having reached the High Court in 2015, which is eight times higher than that recorded in 2005.  Most cases, however, are settled long before the matter reaches a trial.

To make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, a claim must be made within six months from the date of the grant of probate.  There is a much longer time limit for other types of will disputes but early advice should be sought to avoid difficulties in bringing those types of claims.

For more information on disputed Wills, you can contact our specialist team on: 01392 207020 or email:

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About the author

Martin Laver

Partner and Solicitor

Partner in the commercial litigation team specialising in disputed trusts and Wills