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Figures show Inheritance Act claims are on the rise

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High-profile legal battles may have contributed to an increase in the number of claims being brought under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

The number of claims to reach the High Court rose to 158 last year, it was revealed this month.

This is up from 116 in 2015 and some ten times the figure for 2005, when just 15 cases of this nature made it to court.

It has been suggested there are a number of reasons for the increase in disputes arising in relation to a person’s estate.

In part it could be attributed to the fact that family structures are more complicated these days, with a greater proportion of Britons divorcing, remarrying or never marrying in the first place.

These shifting living arrangements mean that there is often a greater number of individuals with a potential claim to assets and more complications if a person has died intestate.

A number of inheritance disputes have also garnered considerable publicity in the press. These include disagreements over the estate of the magician Paul Daniels, who passed away last year, and the actress Lynda Bellingham.

Far and away the most notable battle, however, was the case of Ilott v Mitson.

Back in 2015, the Court of Appeal ruled that a woman’s estranged daughter should be awarded £143,000 despite her late mother’s instructions that the money be divided between three animal charities.

Although the decision was overturned by the Supreme Court earlier this year, with the daughter having to ultimately settle for a smaller sum, it increased public awareness of the Inheritance Act.