Recent research has revealed that almost one in 10 admits to feuding with family following the death of a loved one because there were no clear instructions in their will.
Nearly one in 10 said they have fallen out with a family member after they took sentimental belongings like jewellery, clothes, furniture and ornaments, by getting to their loved one’s house first.
Furthermore, one in 7 said it had been months before they had realised that their loved one’s possessions were missing after being taken by other family members, with 52 per cent admitting to feeling cheated and resentful of them for keeping the items for themselves.
According to the new research, commissioned by probate specialists, Slater and Gordon, 18 per cent say that their loved ones will did not contain details of who bequests were being left to and what each relative should receive. Eight per cent confessed the lack of detail led to a lot of family confusion and upset.
A bequest is the term used for a gift that you leave to a person in your will. There are several different types of bequests, but a “specific bequest” relates to a particular named item, such as a piece of jewellery, a book, keepsake, furniture or a picture.
As such unless specific bequests are made, family and friends united in grief can quickly become divided by disagreement.
Despite the research, showing 10 per cent of sons have had a conversation with their father about inheriting their watch and 16 per cent of daughters with their mothers about a piece of jewellery that has been handed down from generation to generation, there is still the chance these wishes will not be met if they were not detailed within the person’s will.
James Beresford, probate lawyer at Slater and Gordon, said: “Writing a clear and detailed will is incredibly important – particularly when sentimental items and family heirlooms are concerned.
“We are seeing a rise in the number of people coming to us looking for clarification on a friend or family member’s will. Furthermore, people are willing to fight for what they consider to have been promised to them – whether it is a picture, keepsake, jewellery or piece of furniture.
“It is really sad to see families and friends becoming embroiled in battles that can destroy relationships, when it can be so easily avoided.”
The number of High Court legal battles over wills has increased by more than 700 per cent in the past five years, with recent cases meaning that people are much more aware of their rights and much more willing to fight for an item they care about.
This is not surprising when four in ten said that they had never asked their parents about their will and nearly 30 per cent did not know who the executor of their parent’s will was.
78 per cent said they felt uncomfortable speaking to a family member or friend about the contents of their will, because they didn’t like to discuss death or money.
Additionally 15 per cent of people who had written wills didn’t think they were 100 per cent clear about who their possessions were being left to. Nearly 1 in 5 also thought a family member’s will was unclear, when it came to deciphering what should be rightfully theirs.
87 per cent said they felt their parents would be fair, but 6 per cent said they thought they deserved more than their sibling.
James Beresford, from Slater and Gordon, said: “It’s important that people make their intentions known to their loved ones before they die to allow everyone to fully understand the thought process behind the will and save relatives from potential arguments.
“When a loved one dies feelings often can run high and this has been intensified in recent years with the amount of money at stake in an estate.
“So often families can avoid a lot of heartache by being open with one another about what their intentions are when it comes to their estate especially where property is involved. But if you feel you have not received what you think you should have it is always best to get legal advice from a specialist.”