Festive family disputes
Family disputes during the Christmas period are not uncommon, given the financial and other pressures which the festive period can sometimes bring.
The effect of some festive fallings-out can be long-lasting, especially if someone is disinherited as a result.
It is not unusual for wills to be changed following family arguments. This can be problematic because excluding either certain relatives or a financial dependant from a will (or reducing their share) might later result in them bringing a claim against an estate for ‘reasonable financial provision’.
How common are Christmas quarrels?
In a YouGov survey, over 90% of those polled said that avoiding family arguments was important to being happy at Christmas.
Yet, when Travelodge conducted a survey of 2,000 British households about Christmas, they found that the average household experienced at least five arguments during Christmas Day.
The survey showed that the first occurred as early as 10.13am – perhaps as a result of visiting relatives or the gifts which people had received that morning.
The results also suggested that the next series of arguments usually occurred at 12.42pm, 1.30pm and 2pm, which is not surprising, given that many households might be preparing Christmas lunch around that time.
Those surveyed added that family bickering would also occur during their Christmas lunch (at 3.24pm to be precise), due to old family arguments being reignited, family gossip and one-upmanship.
Christmas television, board games and pre-bedtime disputes apparently prompted more quarrels at 6.05pm, 7.25pm and 10.15pm.
What happens if a will is changed?
Whilst there are, of course, many other reasons why family disputes occur, Christmas does tend to throw the spotlight on existing family tensions. If a Christmas argument is resolved quickly, this might not cause an issue, but if a will is changed in response to a family argument, it will only reflect what the person making the will wanted at that particular time.
So, if reconciliation later occurs and someone does not have the chance to update their will before they die, it might not reflect their final wishes.
It is important to review a will (and when necessary update it) each time someone’s personal circumstances or wishes change. For example, if they want to include someone in their will, they marry or have children.
Our specialist team of will dispute solicitors advises families, executors and claimants about disputes involving estates.