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 is insufficient, by claiming under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
In a case where reasonable financial provision has not been made, the Inheritance Act allows the court to change the shares of the deceased's estate.
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).
- A person who was being maintained by the deceased.
What is a reasonable financial provision?
A spouse or civil partner does not have to be in financial need to make a claim. Anyone else claiming under the Inheritance Act however will need to be able to show that they are in need or were financially dependent on the deceased. They are only entitled to such reasonable financial provision as is necessary for their maintenance.
If you would like advice on an Inheritance Act claim, or on any other inheritance dispute or trust dispute, please contact our Disputed Wills and Trusts Team on freephone 0800 0931336, or by email firstname.lastname@example.org for a free, no obligation chat to see how we can help you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will I automatically inherit my partner's estate as a common law husband or wife?
There is no legal status in England and Wales of a "common law" husband and wife. If you have not made a will, on your death your estate will pass in accordance with the intestacy rules, irrespective of whether you have children with your partner or the length of time you have lived together.
What can I do if I have been left out of a will or I am unhappy about my share?
Depending on your relationship with the deceased and your financial circumstances, you may be eligible to make a claim under the Inheritance Act.
If you are considering a claim under the Inheritance Act, it is essential that you seek legal advice as soon as possible - 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 the will does not reflect a promise made by the deceased before his or her death (such as a promise to transfer land or property) you may have a proprietary estoppel claim. You also might want to look at whether there is any possibility of making a challenge to the validity of the will.
Are there time limits for bringing an Inheritance Act claim?
Yes - a claim under the Inheritance Act, must be brought within 6 months of the date of grant of representation. If you are already out of time please do still contact us as we may still be able to help.
How much does an Inheritance Act claim cost?
It is difficult to say how much the total cost of an inheritance dispute will be as it will depend upon what work needs to be undertaken and how the other parties deal with the claim.
The overall cost of court proceedings can however vary from a few thousand pounds to many tens of thousands of pounds. Depending on the circumstances of the case, we generally always try and settle our cases outside of court to keep costs to a minimum for our clients. This also means our clients have as much control as they can over any settlement reached.
We appreciate that the cost of obtaining legal advice or pursuing or defending a claim is often of most concern to clients. Depending on the circumstances of your case, we may be able to offer you alternative funding options, such as "no win, no fee" or a deferred payment arrangement.
Contentious probate is a niche area and we strongly recommend that you seek legal advice from a specialist. You can find details of the lawyers in our dedicated Disputed Wills and Trusts Team here.
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