At Work: Law and Governance - Keep it legal Wills

David Rhodes, an associate solicitor at Yorkshire law firm Andrew M Jackson

As the saying goes, where there's a will there's a wrangle. A recent YouGov survey has shown that 25 per cent of families have fallen out over a will, with arguments between siblings being the most common reason.

Even simple disputes can grow into serious arguments - and, where the parties resort to lawyers, sorting things out can take a considerable amount of time. But what should a charity do if it finds itself caught up in this situation?

Does the dispute concern you? If you are receiving a legacy of a fixed amount and it is the rest of the will that is in dispute, you need do nothing except wait for your legacy, although the wait will probably seem even longer than usual. If the entire will is in dispute and it contains a legacy or gift of a share in the estate to you, you have more of a problem.

Wills can be disputed in two main ways. First, a dispute can arise if a family member or a dependant of the deceased claims that the will has not made enough financial provision for them. If successful, this type of claim can lead to a judge 'rewriting' the will to make enough financial provision for the person claiming. Rebalancing the shares under the will in favour of one party can be achieved only at the expense of another.

The second scenario relates to the circumstances surrounding the way it was drawn up or signed that give reason for it to be overturned. The most common circumstances are that when the will was signed the person signing it did not have sufficient mental capacity to understand the terms of the will. Other reasons include the testator not knowing or approving the contents of the will, or the will being made under duress or fraudulently.

If successful, this type of claim leads to the entire will being overturned and the previous will or intestacy being reinstated.

If you receive a legacy under a will, it's unlikely that the judge will rewrite it to such an extent that your legacy will vanish. If the will is overturned entirely, however, your legacy will vanish too.

If you are given a share of the estate in the will, you are in danger of losing at least some of the share, if not all, in either type of claim.

In this case, you should consider taking your own legal advice to try to preserve your share of the estate.

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