Inheritance Act Claims
Following a death, certain relatives and dependants can challenge the will, or their entitlement under the rules of intestacy (where the individual has died without a valid will), by claiming under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, that it does not make "reasonable financial provision" for them.
A claim for an award under the Act must be brought within six months following a grant of probate or letters of administration has been issued (the Court can extend this period in certain circumstances).
Who can bring a claim under the Inheritance Act?
The categories of people who can make a claim are:
- A spouse or civil partner.
- A former spouse or civil partner who has not remarried or registered a new civil partnership (provided a Court Order was not made at the time of the separation that specifically prohibits them from bringing such a claim).
- Any other person who was cohabitating with the deceased as 'husband and wife' for at least two years immediately prior to death.
- A child of the deceased.
- A person treated by the deceased as "a child of the family".
- Any other person who immediately prior to death was being maintained by the deceased.
Reasonable financial provision
There are statutory guidelines the Court must take into account when considering a claim under the Inheritance Act. When considering whether reasonable financial provision has been provided for the applicant, the Court must have particular regard to:
- The financial resources and needs of the applicant and also of other applicants and/or the beneficiaries.
- The obligations and responsibilities of the deceased towards the applicant and other beneficiaries.
- The size and nature of the estate.
- Any physical or mental disability of the applicant or beneficiaries.
- Any other relevant matters including the conduct of the applicant.
Spouses and civil partners do not have to be in financial need or be financially dependant on the deceased to make a claim. When considering an application for reasonable financial provision by a spouse or civil partner the Court will take into account factors such as:
- The age of the applicant – is the spouse young enough to seek employment?
- The length of the relationship.
- The contribution made by the applicant to the welfare of the family.
- Any provision the applicant might have expected on divorce/dissolution.
Other applicants will only succeed if they are in need or were financially dependent on the deceased. The "maintenance standard" is applied here and the standard of provision is "such provision as would be reasonable in all the circumstances to maintain the applicant".
What the Court can order
If the Court decides that the will or rules of intestacy does not make reasonable financial provision for the applicant it can order:
- Periodical payments from the estate.
- A lump sum payment.
- A transfer of property from the estate.
- Setting up of a trust (for example to provide a home for the applicant to live in for life).
Our Wills, Trusts and Estates Disputes Team have a great deal of practical knowledge and professional expertise in the area of Inheritance Act claims. We can advise applicants wishing to bring a claim for financial provision, beneficiaries who want to defend their interests in a disputed estate, or executors who find themselves named as defendants in a claim.
If you are considering a claim under the Inheritance Act, it is essential that you seek legal advice as soon as possible - remember, Inheritance Act claims must be brought within 6 months of the grant of representation to the estate. If you are already out of time please do still contact us as we may still be able to help.
If you would like advice on challenging a Will, or indeed on any other inheritance or trust dispute, please contact our Disputed Wills, Trusts and Estates Team by telephone on +44 (0)1884 203 018 or FREEPHONE 0800 0931336, or by email email@example.com.
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In light of Ilott v Mitson and Others , Rebecca Milton explains on what bases a will could be challenged.