A respected litigation lawyer has urged the region’s families to consider mediation as an alternative to costly courtroom battles – as the number of disputed wills has soared.
The warning comes from leading will dispute specialist Robert Weston who says the number of family feuds over the legacies of loved ones that end up in court had ‘drastically increased’ during the recession.
It has been reported that there has been a 700 per cent increase in High Court actions challenging wills over the past five years while the number of wills declared invalid have almost doubled.
But Mr Weston, a partner at Midland law firm MFG Solicitors, is handling more and more cases across the region, and indeed Nationally, that go to mediation.
He said that mediation can be better for long-term relations between family members because it does not resort in either party being blamed.
Mr Weston said: “These recent figures offer an astounding picture and show a huge rise in the number of challenges people are making when it comes to wills. The poorly performing economy has undoubtedly played a role but people must see there are other ways to overcome what can be devastating barriers for families.
“Mediation is quicker and cheaper than going to court but it’s also a method which can help to build bridges that have been torn down between families. It helps to provide a speedier resolution as the parties involved can sit down around the table and have an open discussion with lawyers present.”
Mr Weston said that an increase in step families and co-habiting couples, without the legal protection of marriage, has added to the number of acrimonious disputes over wills which have been assisted by financial pressures brought about by the recession.
Mr Weston, who acts for clients across the country in respect of contentious probate cases, added: “There are various factors which are currently contributing to disputes over wills but I have found that the vast majority of disputes that go into mediation are settled. Litigation, while useful as a last resort, can be a very blunt tool.
“Just because families have disagreed over a will it does not mean they cannot come to an amicable compromise.
“With mediation, the families are in control of what happens whereas in the court room even cases that look strong are not certain to succeed. Mediation is a legal route which too many people are not considering but should be.”