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A number of factors fuel an increase in High Court cases

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A record number of disputes relating to people’s inheritance were heard in the High Court last year.

Some 116 matters arising from the Inheritance Act were dealt with by Judges during 2015, compared with just 15 a decade earlier.

The reasons for the eight-fold increase have been widely debated with a number of factors thought to have played their part.

The complicated arrangement of many modern families, with an increased number of separations, second marriages and stepchildren, is thought to have made it more likely that parties will contest a Will.

By a similar measure, house prices have soared and this means that the value of estates may make people more likely to dispute how they should be shared out.

A more immediate impact may have been made by the publicity surrounding the case of a woman who successfully challenged her mother’s decision to leave the majority of her estate to a selection of animal charities.

The legal battle in question – Ilott v Mitson – has now gone to the Supreme Court, where Judges will be hearing evidence later in the year.

The rising number of inheritance disputes has led to some calls for the Government to consider fundamental reforms to the country’s intestacy rules, on the basis that the current laws don’t reflect profound changes that have taken place in society – such as the marked increase in the number of cohabitees.

In the meantime, the situation further illustrates the importance of ensuring that Wills are drafted with the guidance of a solicitor and that documents are reviewed on a regular basis. This reduces the risk of arrangements being challenged at a future point.