This Saturday the Financial Times highlighted the growing number of inheritance disputes – reporting that the number of cases which have reached court have doubled since 2006 to 663 but that they represent the tip of the iceberg with numerous disputes between claimants, beneficiaries and executors settled less than amicably outside the court system. Professional probate specialists admitted that often the only financial winners in these cases are solictors and barristers with costly disputes, eating through estate assets and final settlements. While there has been a dramatic rise in the number of inheritance disputes the overall figure is small compared to the number of challenges HMRC makes each year to property valuations submitted by executors for probate -in 2010 HMRC challenged 9,368 property valuations (60% of all probate property valuations), an astonishing 30% of those challenges were upheld, with an average increase in inheritance tax and penalty payments of £24,000 per case.
Many non-professional executors agree to take on the role for family member or friend to save the estate and beneficiaries money but the possibility of legal or financial disputes with claimants, beneficiaries or HMRC is a fairly sobering reality and it is worth considering Executors Liability insurance, designed specifically for lay executors, as it provides an important safety net if something does go wrong during the probate process.
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