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Wills and probate specialist joins national organisation as dispute cases rise

Katherine Marshall

Lawyer and dispute resolution specialist Katherine Marshall is furthering her expertise within the area of contested Wills, as the number of contentious probate cases continues to rise across the UK.

Katherine, of Wilkin Chapman solicitors’ dispute resolution team, is now a member of the Association of Contentious Trust and Probate Specialists (ACTAPS). This follows a successful three years’ further study. 

A national organisation with members countrywide, it provides a forum for specialists to exchange knowledge and best practice with seminars, conferences, and workshops to enhance skills. ACTAPS also acts as a parliamentary and Government lobby group.

Pleased to be one of the group’s latest members Katherine, who splits her time between Wilkin Chapman’s Horncastle, Louth, Grimsby and Lincoln offices, said: “The depth and breadth of experience that is held by ACTAPS’ members is invaluable in terms of developing my skills, keeping up-to-date with the very best practice and using that increased knowledge to further support clients.”

Annual national figures from the Ministry of Justice show that 188 contentious probate cases were formally issued at court in 2019 – all claiming they were entitled to a share of, or a larger portion of, an estate. This was up from 128 in 2018, 145 in 2017 and beating the previous record of 158 in 2016. These figures do not include those claims that are settled prior to the need for formal court proceedings.

Katherine said the increase in national cases was mirrored regionally with a rise in such inquiries. A range of reasons for this included a growth in the value of estates over the last two decades, the number of second marriages and new partnerships, and various ‘headline-hitting’ cases that had heightened awareness.

Added to that was the crisis caused by the on-going pandemic leading to a sad rise in death rates and possibly the creation of hurried and perhaps incomplete Wills. 

Katherine explained how Wills could now be witnessed virtually. Whilst this was a positive move, care needed to be taken that issues, such as mental capacity or undue influence, were not overlooked. Such matters could be more easily addressed face-to-face, she added.

“All of these factors have contributed to this increase. When you look at the current situation with coronavirus as an example. This dreadful pandemic has impacted upon many people both financially and emotionally with the initial outbreak certainly prompting a surge in demand for Wills’ preparation and powers of attorney. Whilst this was understandable, was everything conducted as it should have been, to prevent it being contested later?” explained Katherine.

“Whilst we would always seek to achieve resolution through mediation, or other forms of negotiation, that is not always possible. Of course, by far the best way of preventing such cases is to ensure we have Wills that are correct and reviewed regularly and upon any change in circumstance, with careful consideration given to family relationships,” she added.

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