Inheritance Act claims – an essential guide

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The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 permits claims for reasonable financial provision from the estate of a deceased person, regardless of whether a Will exists in each case. However, there are certain conditions that must be met for a claim to proceed.

Who is eligible to make a claim?

The following people can bring a claim against a person’s estate:

  • The spouse or civil partner. The terms of the Inheritance Act means that a spouse is likely to be awarded more than any other category of applicant;
  • A former spouse or former civil partner, unless they have re-married or entered into a new civil partnership;
  • Any person who, in the two years immediately before the date of death, lived in the same household as the deceased either as their spouse or civil partner;
  • A child of the deceased;
  • Any person who was treated by the deceased as a child of the family; and
  • Any person who, immediately before the death, was being maintained, wholly or partly, by the deceased.

On what basis can a claim be made?

Claimants will generally take action if they have been entirely excluded from a close relative’s Will or in circumstances where they feel that the financial provision they receive from an estate is not reasonable. Equally, claims can be made in an intestacy situation for the same reasons.

If a claim proves successful, the Court will often order that the claimant receives money from the estate as a remedy. Occasionally, the remedy could be the right to live in a property owned by the deceased or have a property transferred directly to the claimant. In some cases where an estate is very small, it may not be cost effective to make a claim at all.

What factors determine the success of a claim?

Every case is judged on its own merits but the Court must consider the same principles every time to determine what may be  reasonable financial provision. The factors that the Court must weigh are:

  • The financial resources and needs which any claimant and/or beneficiary have or are likely to have;
  • Any obligations and responsibilities which the deceased had towards any claimantt or beneficiary of the estate;
  • The size and nature of the net estate;
  • Any physical or mental disability of any claimant or any beneficiary; and
  • Any other matter, including the conduct of the claimantor any other person.

In addition, depending on your relationship to the deceased, the Court will look at specific factors, such as the duration of marriage and age of aspouse. Therefore, it’s important that your lawyer has as much information as possible about the financial circumstances of everyone involved at the earliest opportunity. This will allow them to better assess the claim and advise you about the possible outcome.

Are Court proceedings always necessary?

Going to Court should always be a last resort as it’s a time consuming, expensive and stressful process. There are plenty of options available to the parties to come to an agreement beforehand, both before and after proceedings are issued. Depending on the situation, paths to an agreement may include written or face-to-face negotiations, or a formal mediation where an independent mediator attempts to broker an agreement between the parties.

That said, if you issue a claim or are defending a claim under the Inheritance Act, you should be prepared to potentially go to Court.

Are there any time limits to making a claim?

An Inheritance Act claim must usually be made within six months of the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration from the Court. This timeframe does not include any negotiations or contact between the parties before a Grant is obtained, or negotiations after a claim has been issued and the time taken to get to a Court hearing.

A variety of factors will determine the length of a matter from start to finish. Some cases can be resolved relative quickly (six to nine months) other can take considerably longer.

In every case and based on our experience, we provide our best estimate of the likely timescales involved at each stage. If the timescale is not met, we will explain why and advise on the next steps to bring the case back on schedule as far as possible.

How much will it cost to make a claim?

We will discuss the various options with you at the outset of your matter and keep the funding status of your claim under review throughout. We will also let you know if an alternative arrangement is available to you.