HM Insights

Is executry administration becoming more contentious?

Recently we have seen a rise in the number of estates with a contentious element to them. Disputes often arise as a result of executors being unable to agree on certain aspects of the estate administration, or beneficiaries challenging the value, or existence, of assets within the deceased's estate.

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If an estate becomes contentious, it will inevitably add time and expense to winding up the estate, and can cause a tremendous amount of stress for the family of the deceased.

Why are estates becoming more contentious?

Sadly, practitioners are dealing with an increasing number of families where relationships have deteriorated and broken down irreparably over a number of years.  In some cases, family members have lost contact with each other, and the death of a loved one can often trigger the first contact in years. 

The modern construct of families and the increase in 'blended' families may be a contributing factor, with second marriages, children from previous marriages and step families becoming more common. Unfortunately, there can often be disagreement among such families. For example, disputes often arise between the children of the first marriage, and the surviving spouse of the second marriage. We also see situations where one sibling may challenge another on how they have dealt with their parent's affairs whilst acting as an attorney during the latter stages of their parent's life.

How to avoid a contentious claim on my estate

The starting point is to ensure you have a robust Will that structures your affairs appropriately, and plans ahead to protect your estate against a potential family fall out scenario.

A well-structured Will can help to avoid many of the disputes that arise after death. For example, the nomination of your executors under your Will is a key decision that needs to be considered carefully at the time of preparing your Will.

The effective use of trusts within your Will can also be used to manage assets and delicate family relationships.  A letter of wishes is a further option which can be used to set out invaluable guidance to executors, and can help them to administer your estate.

Further advice

It is recommended that everybody has a valid Will in place. It is important to review your Will over time and as circumstances change. It is best to seek legal advice to ensure your Will is structured to suit your family circumstances and to protect your affairs on death.  

Get in touch

Harper Macleod's Private Client team can assist with all matters related to making a Will in Scotland.

Useful links

Making a will Scotland