Certain relatives and dependants can challenge a will or the rules of intestacy (where the deceased died without a will) if the provision made for them in either circumstance is insufficient. Such an individual can challenge the provision made to them (or lack of) by bringing a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
In a case where reasonable financial provision has not been made for the applicant, the Inheritance Act allows the court to change the shares of the deceased's estate so as to make reasonable financial provision for them.
The categories of people who may be eligible to bring an Inheritance Act claim are:
- The spouse or civil partner;
- A former spouse or civil partner who has not remarried or registered a new civil partnership;
- A person who was cohabitating with the deceased as 'husband and wife' for at least two years prior to their death;
- A child of the deceased;
- A person treated by the deceased as "a child of the family" (for example a fostered or step-child); or
- A person who was being maintained by the deceased.
What is reasonable financial provision?
The power of the court to make an award under the Inheritance Act is limited to ordering only such provision as is reasonable for the maintenance of the applicant. A spouse or civil partner does not have to be in financial need to make a claim. Anyone else claiming under the Inheritance Act will need to show that they are in need or were financially dependent on the deceased.
Assessing Inheritance Act claims
When determining a claim under the Inheritance Act and whether reasonable financial provision has been made, the court will consider a number of factors, including:
- the financial needs and resources of the applicant;
- the financial needs and resources of any other applicant;
- the financial needs and resources of any beneficiary of the estate;
any obligations and responsibilities that the deceased had towards any applicant or beneficiary of the estate;
- the size and nature of the estate;
- any physical or mental disability of any applicant or beneficiary; and
- any other matter, including the conduct of the parties.
Is there a time limit to bring an Inheritance Act claim?
An Inheritance Act claim must be issued at court within six months of the date of the Grant of Probate. It is sometimes possible to bring a claim outside of this 6-month time limit, but strict rules apply.
If you are considering bringing a claim under the Inheritance Act, or if you find yourself having to defend such a claim, we recommend that you seek specialist legal advice as soon as possible.