Latimer Hinks Solicitors, one of Darlington and County Durhams longest established law firms, is urging people to make sure their wills are up to date and professionally written.
The firm has seen the number of con tested will cases it has dealt with double in around three years, tearing families apart and in most cases family relationships are damaged irreparably.
The warning comes as millions of people are expected to watch a new BBC 2 programme encouraging them to make wills. Cant Take It With You starts on Friday, January 14.
People should first look for a Society of Trust Estate Practitioners (STEP) qualified member, of which Latimer Hinks has three full members, known as TEPs, each with in excess of ten years experience in the field, and three student members.
Secondly, they should also consider employing the services of a lawyer who is a member of Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE).
SFE is an independent, national organisation of lawyers who are committed to providing the highest quality of legal advice, particularly for older and vulnerable people, their families and carers and who have specialist knowledge in the field of preparation of wills.
Andrew Way, a Partner at Latimer Hinks Solicitors, a TEP, said: "We are at the start of a New Year, so now is an ideal time to review or make your wills. However, with a growth in con tested probate cases in recent years and more people being encouraged to make a will, "getting it right has rarely been more important.
"People are simply becoming more aggressive in their beliefs about what they are entitled to. When a case is con tested it can drag on for years, causing immense heartache and ripping families apart.
Andrew, who provides free advice sessions for local groups covering wills and related is sues, said: "It is vital that professional advice is taken particularly by those with more complex family situations, ideally from a solicitor with a STEP qualification.
"Research carried out last year showed that most people fail to realise that not all will writers are solicitors, STEP qualified or otherwise. It is often the case that will draftsmen are not STEP qualified and do not have the experience to handle often very sensitive family is sues particularly in this day and age with second and third marriages - and indeed many couples living together, having children but without marrying. Delicate is sues often require quite complex solutions particularly if Inheritance Tax is involved.
"The fact of the BBC programme is great. It is right to encourage people to make wills but they need the right advice. A badly drawn will can often be worse than no will at all.
Alongside Andrew, Latimer Hinks TEPs are Anne Elliott and Elizabeth Armstrong, supported by student members Gillian Ibbotson, Natalie Palmer and Nadine Sweeney.
In addition, both Andrew and Anne Elliott are full professional members of SFE, supported by professional member Natalie Palmer and associate members Helen Thomas, Gillian Ibbotson, Nadine Sweeney and Daniel Williams.
To organise a free group advice session with Andrew Way, contact 01325 341500.